February 2023

From the Editor

New Wheels

Kim Stewart

Above: After colliding with a car whose driver ran a red light, my trusty Audi is a total loss. 

I parted ways with my car just after Thanksgiving—and not by choice. I collided with a red-light runner in an intersection, and my Audi A3 sedan ended up a total loss. I’d driven it for more than eight years and intended to keep it until the engine wore out. The unexpected opportunity to hunt for new wheels could have been an opening to switch to an EV were it not for my loyalty to gasoline-powered vehicles. (See “EV Charging Your Retail Operations” for an update on the infrastructure landscape.)

In our cover story, “Who’s Minding the Store?”, Jerry Soverinsky checks in on the state of autonomous retail and its various forms, especially so-called unmanned stores. They include a shipping container kiosk market from Swiss convenience retailer migrolino; Toronto’s Aisle 24; Choice Market in Denver; Russell’s Xpress, also in Denver; and the Walk-Off Market at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, among others. While the whys behind each vary—labor savings, limited-access buildings, for instance— each one strives to deliver efficiency and convenience.

The unexpected opportunity to hunt for new wheels could have been an opening to switch to an EV were it not for my loyalty to gasoline-powered vehicles.”

Selling tobacco is a tangle of regulations, especially amid a pending federal proposal to ban sales of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. In “Navigating Nicotine During Regulatory Chaos,” Melissa Vonder Haar talks with industry veterans who offer advice for selling tobacco in this environment. Be sure to read the companion Category Close-Up on OTP for a look at how the category is growing.

The 2023 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count is in, and there’s good news. There are 150,174 convenience stores operating in the United States, a 1.5% increase from a year earlier, reversing a four-year decline. What’s more, the number of single-store operators rose by 1,087 to 90,423 stores, representing 60.2% of all convenience stores.

Elsewhere in this issue, Terri Allan explores how loyalty programs are getting more personal, and Fiona Briggs profiles the Dublin-based entrepreneur who leads SPAR Ireland. Speaking of Ireland’s capital city, see this thriving convenience scene for yourself during NACS Convenience Summit Europe, slated for May 30 to June 1 in Dublin.

Back to my wheels. I opted to stick with the internal combustion engine I know, for now. If Audi starts making hydrogen-powered vehicles, I may revisit my Q5 pick. In the end, I’m thankful that I have a choice. And really, that’s what any consumer wants, be it at the car dealership or the local convenience store.

Kim Stewart

Kim Stewart is editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine and editorial director of NACS. She can be reached at kstewart@convenience.org