Convenience Industry Council of Canada’s (CICC) First Virtual Mini-Summit and Trade Exchange

Earlier this month, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) hosted its Virtual Mini Summit and Trade Exchange. Across the country from the comfort and safety of their remote workspaces, over 230 attendees came together for a day of networking and timely content.

Adapting the council’s traditionally in-person National Convenience Industry Summit, to a virtual version was an easy decision. As Anne Kothawala, CICC’s president and CEO said: “It was still important to try and bring our industry together, particularly when there is so much to learn about what this pandemic means to our industry in terms of challenges and opportunities, and when making and maintaining connections are vital for growth in this sector.”

The event kicked off with summit stage favourite and host of the Chatter that Matters podcast, Tony Chapman and Kothawala giving a shout out to the industry. “2020 has been a year with unprec-edented challenges for all of us. Though parts of our communities were shutdown, our industry kept going and our stores remained open to help Canadians access essential goods and products,” highlighted Kothawala. Industry participants and politicians from across the nation were also thanked for their incredible support of National Convenience Week (August 31 to September 4, 2020). The week-long event, which was also adapted to be largely virtual, raised over $70,000 for Make-A-Wish Canada.

The mini summit included a penetrating interview with award-winning cultural anthropologist and founder of MotivBase, Ujwal Arkalgud, who is widely sought after for his opinions on retail and consumer behaviour. It was a pleasure to have had him share his insights on how COVID-19 has changed the convenience consumer and how our industry can capitalize on these changes. According to Arkalgud: “The key to understanding the convenience consumer is in the words they use and their changing meanings of these words.” Broadly speaking, “language is an indication of what is top of mind and what is of concern. If convenience stores can understand consumers’ language, this can open up opportunities to better serve the community because the solutions they provide will directly relate to what customers need but perhaps did not overtly express.” To give attendees an idea of this approach, he shared the example of the meaning of safety and c-stores’ role in providing this. For convenience customers, safety is less about the cleanliness of the store and the well-being of employees and customers (which, make no mistake, are still basic expectations of customers), and more about being able to access certain products and solutions in a safe and convenient way. For instance, being able to pick up almond milk (for lactose-intolerant) or local products at a nearby c-store that is less crowded than a grocery store would ease customers’ anxiety and strengthen a convenience store’s position as providing safety in the community.

The key feature of CICC’s re-imagined event was the Virtual Trade Exchange. Similar to the in-person experience, vendors showcased new products and services, to senior level retailer and distributor decision makers. This year, over 50 individual participants from 7-Eleven, Canadian Tire, Circle-K/Couche-Tard, Core-Mark, Husky Energy, MacEwan, Sobeys Wholesale, Parkland, Petro-Canada, Beaudry Cadrin, and Wallace & Carey safely connected with almost 30 exhibiting vendors, reacquainting with existing contacts, making new connections, and discovering new products.

The event closed on a high point with the announcement of this year’s Convenience Innovation Award winners. Special thanks to all who entered this year’s program and congratulations to our winners! To find out more about the awards go to .