WEST DES MOINES, Iowa --With the perspective of a true independent, Dave Carpenter, a four-store, 7-Eleven-branded retailer from West Des Moines, Iowa, is ready to take on the chairmanship of NACS. As Carpenter prepares to succeed California retailer Tom Robinson, he shared his vision, hopes and concerns for the convenience channel with CSP Daily News.
Q: How do you feel about the job ahead?
A: I'm excited to have been given this opportunity. It's an honor. But it's going to be a balance with my family, my business and becoming chairman. I want to be the one who gives the right amount to each.
Dave CarpenterQ: What are your immediate plans?
A: Being a small operator myself, the challenge is to get engagement with other smaller operators. NACS has done a lot in that area, but there's more to do. It's difficult, and we've had thoughtful conversations about it. Larger chains have great talent and are easy to identify. The independent wears 100 different hats. Many just can't leave the store, or their five- to 10-store businesses. But they have great passion and have a lot to gain themselves by their involvement. We need their passion, innovation, grass-roots energy and leadership.
Q: Grass-roots initiatives seem to be a newfound resource for NACS.
A: We saw success with card-swipe legislation. We're developing better ways to do grass-roots initiatives. That's the most effective thing in D.C.
Q: What do you feel are the industry issues coming up for 2012-2013?
A: Two definitely come to mind: card swipe fees and the future of fuels. The largest is probably the evolution of swipe-fee reform and what happens with the latest settlement. We're not looking for a handout; we want the system fixed. And we'll continue to fight to put competition back in the marketplace. But it's going to be tough. The companies we're up against have massive resources. The initial legislation paved the way for lawsuits and other legislative actions, but we knew it wouldn't be easy.
Q: Tell us more about what's next for fuels?
A: Yes, another issue is us getting further involved in the future of fuels. The industry needs to bring thoughtful insight into that process. We're the ones who have to sell it. We're the ones who have to get product in a timely manner. If we can't, shortages happen, which isn't good for anyone. The problem is, decisions get made without looking at everything holistically. How does it affect the supply chain, the tanks in the ground, the nozzle, the car? There are probably 50 types of fuels being made, but our infrastructure was built to handle six. The current mandates will probably fail because they're just not realistic.
Q: What are your thoughts on the topic of foodservice?
A: We like to see that bar getting set higher for the industry with chains like Sheetz and Wawa. It's great to see and learn from our industry leaders. There's no doubt that the stronger chains are getting bigger and better. But the smaller guys are getting larger, too. It's not like in other channels, like grocery and drug, where the little guys went away. It's fun to see growth and change and new technology, and our industry being more heavily involved in food.
Q: How do you see your role as NACS chairman?
A: I see myself listening to members as issues evolve. I'm there for members who've provided the time, insight and resources on these issues. I'm making sure we're making decisions that represent them. We've done that in the past and will continue to do that on a daily basis. On issues like the swipe-fee settlement, we're seeing a pretty unanimous front. The other way I view my job is to make sure people don't lose their passion for the fight. It isn't going to be easy, but we need to make sure we're cohesive, that we're doing the right thing, doing what members want, and keeping their passion alive.