August 29th 2011

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores, the peak body for the convenience industry in Australia, celebrated a successful yet challenging past 12 months at its annual AACS Gala Awards Dinner 2011 in Sydney last week.

Joining special guest speaker, Minister for Small Business Senator Nick Sherry, and MC Alan Brough from the ABC’s Spicks and Specks were over 450 guests from major retailers, independent retailers, franchisees, store owners and suppliers – some of the best known faces in the industry.

The major winners on the night Coca-Cola Amatil, winning the Supplier Grand Champion of the Year Award, as well as Peter Jowett Industry Award winners Chris Centra of 7-Eleven and Rick Colella of British American Tobacco, both of whom will embark on the AACS International Study Tour to North American Convenience Stores (NACS) in Chicago and Vancouver.

Senator Sherry, AACS Executive Director Jeff Rogut and Caltex Australia’s Karim Sumar handed out the awards, which were held at Doltone House in Pyrmont.

The AACS Annual Awards have recognised excellence among retailers and suppliers in the convenience industry for over 20 years. Importantly, the winners are decided by those best positioned to do so; the awards for retailers are judged by suppliers and vice versa while mystery shoppers judge individually nominated stores.

Criteria for the supplier awards included elements like service levels, data integrity, effective promotions and problem solving; while for retailers factors including leaderships, business strategy, innovation and execution of promotions were considered.

As the convenience industry faces challenging times with increased overheads and threats to market share from the major supermarkets, it was especially encouraging to consider the fresh perspectives offered by the next generation of industry professionals.

“In times such as this, when retail trading conditions are tough, it is particularly important to recognise the efforts of those at the forefront of our industry and encourage the younger professionals who will shape the convenience sector in the future,” said Mr Rogut.

A future forward approach

While the AACS Gala Awards Dinner 2011 recognised the outstanding efforts of retailers, suppliers and individuals over the past 12 months, the night also provided the opportunity for the AACS to outline its areas of focus and its plans to shape and protect the future of the convenience industry.

As new challenges emerge, the AACS, as the representative body for the many small independent businesses as well as larger retailers and suppliers in the sector, is committed to protecting the future of all stakeholders by ensuring a long term viable and sustainable convenience retail industry.

Some of these challenges were addressed on the night and potential solutions were discussed.

A key challenge for the industry to overcome is increasingly conservative customers with less discretionary income. As major supermarkets continue their push to increase market share and step up competition for consumers’ dollars, the need for the industry to respond innovatively is clear.

“We are at a critical phase in the evolution of the convenience store industry. Supermarkets are targeting product categories previously synonymous with the convenience sector, with the constant discounting of medium bar confectionary and focus on immediate consumption drinks like energy and flavoured milk, for example, impacting convenience store sales,” Mr Rogut said.

“The use of supermarket discount dockets to drive traffic, in addition to new competitors like fast food chains targeting the fresh meal offering of convenience stores, means we as an industry must develop innovative strategies to counter customer and channel shift.

“Unfortunately legislation like plain packaging of tobacco and the carbon tax are creating barriers to our sector that are diminishing our ability to compete. Any measures resulting in declining sales or increased overheads directly threaten the viability of stores,” he said.

Mr Rogut said the AACS and its members did not seek more regulation to compete.

“Instead, we seek greater flexibility to be able to serve our customers more effectively and be able to compete on an even playing field,” Mr Rogut said.

“One area in which government can encourage a more level playing field is through granting authority for convenience stores to sell packaged beer or wine, as stores in the US, Europe and South East Asia are permitted to do.

“The supermarkets are enjoying significant – and unfair – competitive advantages in this category. Given the success of packaged beer and wine products in the international convenience market and the alignment of customer purchasing habits with the convenience store model, this is an area in which the AACS will be seeking support,” he said.

Mr Rogut also sought to dispel some rumours surrounding the industry.

“A common misunderstanding in the convenience industry is that, though many stores operate under a strong and recognisable banner, they are still in the main small businesses run by families and individuals whose livelihood depends on the performance of their stores,” Mr Rogut said.

“Thus the need to fight for a level playing field for those small businesses becomes even more important.

“We will continue to focus on research into the future of convenience retailing in Australia and internationally, as well as on the education of the leaders of tomorrow, to ensure the long term viability and sustainability of this industry that employs over 13,000 Australians,” he said.

Here is a complete list of award winners honoured on the night.

Supplier Grand Champion of the Year
Coca-Cola Amatil

Suppliers of the Year

Beverage Category
Coca Cola Amatil

Tobacco Category
Philip Morris Ltd

Snacks/Ice-Cream Category
The Smith’s Snackfood Company

Confectionery Category

Outlet Service Category
him! research and consulting

Convenience Foods Category
Patties Foods

General Merchandise / Distributors Category
Pacific Optics

General category

Bread & Milk category

Store of the Year Awards

Major Retailer Store of the Year
Caltex Starmart Kingsford NSW

Franchise Retailer Store of the Year
Caltex Hamilton NSW

Independent Retailer Store of the Year – 3 awards

  • BP Darwin City NT
  • BP Wetherill Park NSW
  • fast & ezy Macquarie Park NSW

Retailer of the Year

Major Head Office Award
Caltex Australia

Independent Group Head Office Award
Freedom Fuels

Peter Jowett Industry Award

Retail Winner
Chris Centra – 7-Eleven

Supplier Winner
Rick Colella – BATFurther information:

Further Information:

Jeff Rogut, AACS Executive Director – Ph: 0467 873 789

Stephen Naylor, Executive Director – Wise McBaron Communication Australasian Association of Convenience Stores – Ph: (02) 9279 4770

Subscribe to our free mailing list and always be the first to receive the latest news and updates.