Twenty-eight-year-old Nick Brown is a man with a plan, and that plan is to win the Global Convenience Industry Achievement Award when he goes to NACS in Atlanta, Georgia in the autumn.
His presentation to the ACS at Summit 07, which won him the UK award, wowed the judges.
They obviously liked the content but they also liked Nick’s delivery: "One of them also remarked that my ’evangelical style of presentation’ would go down well in America," he says. And Nick’s very excited about the trip, where he hopes to take away contacts, knowledge and ideas. It’s a big deal for him as he’s only ever left the country once before - as a child on a family holiday to Spain. However despite his lack of travel experience, Nick certainly has work experience.
He started out as a baker, first working at a company called Pretzels, then at Tesco. He joined Cambridgeshire-based forecourt company James Graven, run by Jonathan and Rebecca James, in the summer of 2003 as a cashier, went on to become a store manager and today is group forecourt services manager.
To enter the ACS competition, Nick has to prepare a presentation on the future of the retail sector.
His presentation concentrated on the four ’e’s: environment, eat now, electronic and excitement.
He explains: "With environment, it’s not just your immediate environment but your community too. We strive to be the centre of the community. Our Ely site is known as the ’green garage’ because of the BP and Budgens branding, but one day last year we turned it pink to raise money for breast cancer research.
"Then of course there are wider environmental issues. We recycle - separating plastic and cardboard - but perhaps we should be offering recycling bins for our customers too." Also mentioned was local sourcing and the importance of food miles, where consumers know how far their food has travelled to get to the store.
When it comes to ’eat now’, Nick reckons c-stores need to offer a bigger hot food range. "Jonathan’s always saying there are two types of customer, those who want meals to get ready and those who want ready meals - and he’s right. But more and more people want to eat now. And we have to alter our layout so people’s eyes are drawn to the hot food."
Then there’s the ’e’ for excitement and Nick actually combines ’eat now’ with ’excite’ by singing opera to customers while he’s serving hot food.
"I know that as a manager I probably should be more business-like. But the customers love it when I start singing. Nobody really enjoys food shopping so we have to keep customers as happy as possible. We offer a lighter experience. Customers always comment on the fact that our staff are happy and they must like that because they keep coming back."
The possibility of cyber cafés and wireless internet connection was included in the ’electronic’ part of the presentation as was the fact that ’eat now’ customers might like to consume their food in the cyber café.
Nick also mentioned bringing all the electronic services together at one special service desk.
Nick’s overall message was to keep the c-store offer simple but sparkling, and if he sparkles in Atlanta he could be a winner - again.