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08/26/2021

CSA’s SPECS Show Brings Store Development Community Back Together

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
Marianne Wilson profile picture
SPECS Chairman Gary Esposito shakes hands with keynote speaker Barbara Corcoran of "Shark Tank" fame.

The mood was upbeat and enthusiasm was high as the country’s top retailers and suppliers involved in the planning, design,  construction and maintenance of stores, restaurants and non-traditional concepts gathered at Chain Store Age’s 57th annual SPECS conference.

All sectors of the industry were represented, from discounters and supermarkets to convenience stores and specialty concepts to restaurants and home-improvement centers.

“We are honored to play an important role in bringing the store development community back together in-person,” Gary Esposito, SPECS chairman and VP, Chain Store Age, said in opening remarks at the show. “After many months of staying connected digitally, SPECS is here to provide the critical solutions and services that are needed to compete in this ever-changing landscape.”

Held August 22 – 24 at the Gaylord Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor, Md., and exclusively produced by Chain Store Age, the three-day event featured more than 20 insightful educational sessions and powerful keynote addresses by prolific investor and  “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran and CNBC senior analyst and commentator Ron Insana.

“The economy is poised for continued growth over the next several years,” Insana told attendees. “The U.S. is flush with cash at the household level and the corporate level.”

Michael Budzisz
Michael Budzisz, VP, visual merchandising, Dick's Sporting Goods, discussed the company's newest retail concept, Dick's House of Sport.

Quality educational content has long been a hallmark of SPECS and this year’s show was no exception. The program highlighted the trends and concerns that are re-shaping physical retail, from the use of technology and robotics in construction and new energy-saving measures to HVAC upgrades and diversity and inclusion

“The educational content at SPECS provided valuable insights that can’t be found at any other show,” said Deena Amato-McCoy, program director, SPECS. “It was designed to provide our attendees with best practices and actionable insights that they can use when they return to their jobs. Our sessions are developed with direct input and guidance from retailers.”

SPECS also provided attendees with valuable business partnering and networking opportunities, while a dynamic exhibit floor showcased a diverse array of innovative solutions and services designed to provide a better in-store experience for customer and maximize operational efficiencies.

The Breakout Retailer Awards were given out at SPECS. L to R: Gary Esposito, Chain Store Age; Michael Budzisz, Dick’s Sporting Goods; Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle; William Moorman, Goldfish Swim School; Marianne Wilson, CSA; James Owens, HFA,

Breakout Retailer Awards

SPECS featured a special presentation on the winners of Chain Store Age’s annual Breakout Retailer Awards: Chipotle, Dick’s Sporting Goods and the up-and-coming Goldfish Swim School. The awards were sponsored by architectural and engineering firm HFA.   

“The awards are designed to recognize retail, restaurant and non-traditional specialty concepts that are running ahead of the pack and investing in innovation and growth in the physical space,” said Marianne Wilson, editor in chief, Chain Store Age. “Our honorees this year have little in common at first glance. But they are all engaging their customers in new ways and and redefining their industry segments in the process.

Executives from the three winning companies were at SPECS not only to accept their awards, but to share insights into their companies and what lies ahead at a special Q&A session. The Breakout Retailer honorees included Tabassum Zalotrawala, chief development officer, Chipotle; Michael Budzisz, VP of visual merchandising. Dick’s Sporting Goods; and William Moorman, VP of construction, Goldfish Swim School.

Chain Store Age announced that SPECS Show 2022 will be held March 20-22, at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine, Texas, which is just outside of Dallas.