Home' Convenience and Impulse Retailing : February 2010 Contents February 2010 | C&I | www.c-store.com.au
still be able to pay my way at home. As it
turned out I was offered a Commonwealth
Government university scholarship as well
as private industry scholarship to study
engineering full time. So engineering it
From engineering & BBQs to
In 1973, Keith graduated from the University
of NSW but says his heart was never really
in an engineering career.
"I spent the next six or seven years
working as a project and maintenance
engineer for ICI, Philips Petroleum and
then Comalco. I liked engineering for sure,
but I never really saw it as a lifetime career
and had already begun a part time degree
"Mind you, the degree in marketing was
a bit of a disappointment. I don't know
what I really expected, but I didn't expect
a bunch of career academics who hadn't
actually gone out into the world and sold
anything. To my undying shame I got fed up
and walked away in the final year without
Keith's next move was to open a factory
manufacturing indoor barbecues, specialty
cookers and kitchen ventilation equipment,
shortly followed by a 300 sq m outdoor
living store. "In my youthful exuberance, I
bit off rather more than I could chew and
went belly up after about four years. The
exercise left me broke, divorced and with
glandular fever. It took almost a year to get
myself together again."
"I had always been attracted to building
and design and had done some study and
got a builders licence during my years as
a barbecue expert. So, at age 34, I joined
AV Jennings Home Improvements, where
I ended up as Sales & Finance Manager,
without the burden of knowing very much
either about sales or about finance."
And to petrol & publishing
Two years later, Keith received a job offer
from one of his former marketing lecturers,
who had taken over a sales promotion
company. There he met Robyn Bennett,
who co-founded Berg Bennett Pty Ltd, the
publisher of Convenience & Impulse Retailing.
"I had won the English prize at high
school, but never really thought of myself
as a writer. Anyhow, Robyn and I started a
little company which offered commercial
writing services. Robyn was a very clever
wordsmith and taught me how to write for an
audience. We wrote direct mail campaigns,
brochures and company newsletters and
developed quite an impressive client list. It
was impressive to us anyway."
In 1987, Keith & Robyn were invited to
take over the writing and production of
a small in-house magazine for the NSW
Service Station Association.
"My partner, Robyn, was less than keen
on the service station mag, but I loved it
from the moment we started," said Keith.
"I liked the industry. I liked the people. I
was fascinated by the friction between the
oil majors and their dealers and spent far
more time on the servo magazine than was
perhaps warranted. It had a circulation of
just 1,800 and was losing money."
"After a year or two, the Association
invited us to take over the magazine and
assume all of the commercial risk. We put
in a lot of time and money and, in 1990,
relaunched Service Station as Australia's
only national magazine for the retail
petroleum industry. A year or so later, it
was beginning to get its head above water.
But Robyn wasn't enjoying petrol at all, so
I bought out her share of the business and
pressed on with a concept for an industry
show and went looking for a company to
partner with. The industry associations I
approached thought it was either too risky
or far too ahead of its time."
The Exhibitions followed
Keith formed a partnership with an
independent exhibition company and
staged the Service Station 92 expo at
Darling Harbour in Sydney. It has very
successful. Two similar exhibitions
followed at two year intervals in Melbourne
and Brisbane before Keith's company
bought out the partnership. Exhibitions
continued every second year in Sydney
and Melbourne under the umbrella of the
magazine. The most recent was C-Store
2008 in Melbourne, with the next due in
Sydney in March 2011.
But Keith's casual manner belies the
fact that the growth of his business has
been anything but plain sailing. He and his
company have been sued several times by
a number of rival publishers with interests
in the convenience area. All failed. Two well
known trade associations have separately
attempted to organise boycotts of his
company, also without success.
"Mind you, we had a huge amount of
industry support. But it was obvious that
there were some people who didn't want
us around. Maybe they either wanted to
own an industry publication or trade show
for whatever reasons, or had had a go
themselves and been disappointed with the
results. You'd have to ask them. I think the
future is far more interesting than the past.
C&I has grown to become Australia's
largest retail trade magazine. With each
expansion, the title has changed. It's gone
from Service Station, to Service Station &
Convenience Store News, to Convenience
Store News to Convenience & Impulse
Retailing (C&I) today.
"These changes reflected what has been
happening in the industry. While industry
experts endlessly debated the definition
of a convenience store, customers were
making definitions of their own. These
days every FMCG retailer is chasing the
convenience dollar and C&I is trying to
address this reality."
The formula is simple
"We have always had a very simple formula.
Any convenience and impulse retailer
should be able to pick up our magazine and
quickly learn something useful. But a simple
formula takes a lot of work and I have been
blessed with the most outstanding team in
Australian trade publishing."
Keith's staff tend to stay with the
company for a long time. The most recent
arrival has been with the company for
four years, ranging to 15 years.
"We have a pretty relaxed office where
it's OK to turn up in your shorts. Mind you,
our aircon sometimes makes it necessary
to turn up in your shorts!
"I don't like to see people working long
hours because I think having time for
family makes you better in your job and
my staff is certainly proof of that."
Keith has been married for 17 years. He
and his wife, Denise, have two daughters
aged nine and thirteen. He has been an
amateur fish keeper for many years, likes
buying and selling property and has spent
the last ten years restoring a 12 metre
boat. Always the engineer and amateur
inventor, he still spends time tinkering
in his home workshop and holds three
"I don't work the crazy hours I used to.
When I got bowel cancer in 2002/3, my
staff carried me. Now they do it all the
time and I am grateful that it is they that
have given me the chance to enjoy life a
"As far as the future goes I'd like to
further develop the business into the
broader convenience channel, which is
much bigger than traditional P&C. This
year my work scene will be dominated by
the detailed planning of next year's C&I
Convention & Expo.
"At home, I like to spend plenty of time
with Denise and the girls. If I can squeeze
in the time, I'm going to try to design and
build an off-road camper this year and
maybe persuade the family to do a little
outback exploring. Otherwise, I'm happy
just being a trade publisher who mucks
about with power tools."
ADVICE TO RETAILERS
• Read Convenience & Impulse
• Pick everyone’s brains and then
make your own decisions
• Continue to experiment
• Scream loudly for better trading
ADVICE TO SUPPLIERS
• Advertise in Convenience &
• Remember that little fsh are
• Don’t let working for a big
company make you lazy
• To get the pertinent answer, ask
the impertinent question
Keith Berg jokes that he spent twenty-odd
years working out a career plan before
finally giving up career planning altogether.
That was in 1987, when he first got involved
in publishing, beginning with a small
service station magazine and developing
it into the magazine you are reading now.
Keith Berg is the publisher of Convenience &
"I grew up in a working class area in
Sydney and always had one job or another
earning pocket money," said Keith.
graduated from delivering papers, to
being a golf caddy, to coaching younger
kids in maths. I had two or three years at
Woolworths, where they invited me to join
their management trainee program. Even
as a teenager I certainly loved retail, but
didn't really have much of a clue as to what
I wanted to do -- engineering, architecture,
commerce, law -- I just didn't know."
"Mum and dad were Depression kids and
insisted their three children have a good
education. For me, it came down to finding
a way to finance a university course and
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