Meeting of the minds

Industry officials call GMDC’s spring conference a must-attend event for anyone in the supermarket HBC business.

When trying to develop great ideas, two heads are usually better than one. With that in mind, this year’s Global Market Development Center (GMDC) HBW marketing conference, “Health & Wellness @ Retail 2013,” is being co-hosted with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

ShowcaseThe conference’s focus is on enhancing business opportunities for members of both associations interested in expanding category growth in health, beauty and wellness across the footprint of the entire store. This year’s event will take place May 31 to June 3 at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas.

“We are excited to be able to offer both GMDC and FMI members a venue that leverages our two associations’ expertise and leadership in education, consumer insights, sales promotion, nutrition, marketing, merchandising and pharmacy,” says David McConnell, president and CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based GMDC.

This year will see some new programs and a return of many well-liked ones as well. Back by popular demand are the Senior Executive Conference (SEC) 40-minute suite-based meetings. The SEC meetings are mutually selected, pre-scheduled business meetings between member retail and wholesale companies and associate member supplier and service companies. The intent of these meetings, which take place Friday and Saturday during the event, is to facilitate deeper, multi-department collaboration and business development between all parties, says McConnell.

“We find that the 40-minute appointment times provide us a forum in which our senior executives can discuss in-depth, strategic issues and opportunities with top level management,” says Dewayne Rabon, vice president general merchandise, HBC, and family care for BI-LO/Winn-Dixie.

GMDC will also provide members with the opportunity to enhance and extend their SEC experience via GMDC Connect Telepresence. Association officials say GMDC Connect extends the reach of physical meetings by incorporating member executives from off-site locations and provides virtual product and concept demonstrations in high-definition.

This year’s event will also include GMDC’s signature Controlled Casual Conference (CCC) appointments. These meetings are also pre-scheduled and allow for business building discussions around product categories and services, says McConnell. Hosted by retail and wholesale members, the meetings encourage dialogue with more than 200 supplier and service companies that focus on opportunities with new products, category building merchandising and promotional initiatives, along with department and store initiatives.

The GMDC Showcase room will also provide retail and wholesale members an opportunity to identify new products, promotions and merchandising innovations during the conference and networking receptions. For supplier and service companies, the Showcase room provides the opportunity to display merchandising programs that will promote and create new ideas and growth opportunities at retail.  “The Showcase is traditionally one of our best selling tools at a GMDC Marketing Conference,” says Brian Bradley, senior vice president of sales for Lornamead, based in Stamford, Conn. “Not only can our customers better visualize how our products will look merchandised in their stores, our closing rate for new and seasonal items has risen several fold through the use of the Showcase.”

In addition, two new member-only programs will be reviewed via conference workshops and demos in the conference lounge area during the conference. The Global Virtual Store Tour database, in partnership with The RetailNet Group, will provide this to members interested in learning more about how to leverage this new tool. Virtual Store Tours will provide members access to store-level photo-database and merchandising trends and insights. Coverage will include more than 37 markets on six continents and more than 1,800 store galleries with 150,000-plus smart-tagged photos. All of the information is searchable by department, channel, geography and trend.

GMDC365 showcases a powerful selling and informational tool being launched by GMDC and The Retail Gateway (TRG). GMDC officials say that the GMDC365 website was built for retail and supplier companies looking for category planning and product discovery, conveniently streamlined to access from a member’s office or laptop. “For retailers, GMDC365 is a hub to discover new products and gain easy and instant access to supplier product lines. Company portfolios give retailers information about capabilities, certifications, contact information—with just a click,” says McConnell. He adds that supplier and service companies can connect with retail buyers who are searching for products through an online portal, while at the same time provide a cloud-based platform to connect with a sales network of retailers, distributors and brokers, providing up-to-date portfolio of products and business building initiatives.

For companies and attendees participating for the first time, the conference provides new retail and wholesale member attendees the opportunity to meet with more than 200 supplier and service companies to discuss business-building programs. GMDC also assists new companies with a variety of programs to ensure a successful conference. Via the GMDC Conference Toolbox members are provided a number of tools to assist them in planning the conference time as well as post-conference follow-up suggestions. First-time attendees are also invited to a reception that takes place at the beginning of the conference.


What to expect
There are numerous reasons why suppliers attend the GMDC conference, but one of the reasons most often cited is the show’s focus on the supermarket channel. While most other HBC shows center on the drug and the discount side of the business, suppliers say the GMDC conference offers them the ability to meet with supermarket buyers they do not get to see at other shows.

Art Pirrone, vice president of sales and marketing for Modular Thermal Technologies based in North Kingstown, R.I., says this face-to-face time is a key part in what makes the conference successful. Between scheduled meetings and running into people during breaks, Pirrone estimates he has about 40 meetings each day. The role that the GMDC staff plays in making the conference a success cannot not be overlooked either, says Pirrone.

“The staff is one of the most friendly, open, helpful and accessible group of people I have ever come across and I cannot say that about many other shows,” says Pirrone. “Their attitude really sets the mood. It’s a fun show and a lot of work, but it is also very productive.”

Serving her first year as a member of the GMDC Health Beauty Wellness Advisory Board 2013, Nilda Oyola, vice president of sales for Majestic Drug, based in South Fallsburg, N.Y., welcomes the opportunity it affords to meet more people in the industry. “Building and renewing relationships is an integral part of how we at Majestic Drug do business and I am eager to expand on those relationships and forge new ones in my new role as a GMDC advisory board member and as a conference attendee,” she says.

Here’s a brief look at some of the key suppliers attending the conference and what they will be focusing on in Texas:

Diamond Wipes International
For officials at Diamond Wipes International, the conference offers the opportunity to effectively and efficiently showcase both their branded wet wipe programs as well as private label capabilities to retailers. In addition to valuable face-time with their existing clients and meeting new accounts, Tom Hill senior vice president, general sales manager for the Chino, Calif.-based company, says they are also excited to share details with retailers about their new manufacturing capabilities and new sustainability initiatives, including spout pouch packaging solutions for beauty and personal care markets and their USDA NOP organic certifications.

“We find conferences such as ECRM to help us achieve these goals, but we are participating in GMDC because it invites different group of retailers with whom we wish to pursue business relationships,” says Hill.

From infants to elders, Hyland’s offers a wide array of medicines for many ailments. As long-time attendees, officials at Los Angeles-based Hyland’s say GMDC conferences are beneficial vehicles for the company to connect with key grocery accounts on what it has to offer and the benefits of homeopathy. “We appreciate the opportunity to maximize our time and meet with a wide array of retailers in just a few days, making it an incredibly efficient use of our team’s time,” says Les Hamilton, vice president of sales.

Overall, Hamilton says Hyland’s goal with GMDC is to bring greater awareness of the Hyland’s brand and ultimately to the natural option homeopathic medicines provide for families. This year the company will be highlighting its new Hyland’s Baby and Hyland’s 4 Kids packaging. “Our marketing team has done a great job in repackaging and branding our products into specific categories to better highlight the consumer benefits of our products by age groups. We always appreciate the opportunity GMDC provides to build strong relationships with existing and new business partners,” he says.

King Bio
Officials at King Bio, the manufacturer of Safecare brand of homeopathic products, say this year their attendance at the GMDC conference is important. The Asheville, N.C.-based company has launched several new items in the last six months and is excited for retailers to learn more about their features and qualities. Being a new manufacturer in the FDM arena, David Gerhardt, vice president of sales, says the conference affords them a key opportunity to present to all the major chains.

“GMDC allows us to see the buyers again after ECRM and to finalize commitments, show a few new products, review some sales and marketing history and then follow up,” says Gerhardt. “Buyers are looking for more natural products to round out their sets so the more we meet with them the more they know we are here to stay in the FDM arena and the more our relationships grow.”

Majestic Drug
Several of their products are a great fit for grocery, but officials at Majestic Drug say it can be a challenge reaching out to all of their different accounts, which are scattered across the country. They say GMDC’s conference brings all of the key retailers to one location.
“This is one of our favorite shows of the year,” says Oyola. “We really enjoy the opportunity to meet with so many diverse supermarket retailers.”

Oyola says she and others at the company will also be taking the opportunity to speak with retailers about the many changes taking place at Majestic. The company will be highlighting the newest addition to its oral care line, Senzzzzz Away tooth desensitizer. Oyola says that one application of Senzzzzz Away instantly puts tooth sensitivity at bay for up to six months.

“Whether teeth experience sensitivity due to cold, sweets or heat, Senzzzzz Away is the perfect one step solution to allow the freedom to eat with no more pain,” she says. Majestic will also be showcasing several of its consistent performers, many of which will be featuring upgraded packaging. These include Proxi-Plus interdental brushes, denture care products Reline-It and Repair-It, and Dentemp O.S.

Modular Thermal Technologies
For officials at Modular Thermal Technologies, maker of CryoMAX reuseable cold packs, the format of the conference is one of the key selling points. “Experienced people know you don’t need a huge chunk of time in front of a buyer, you are just trying to create interest and excitement about your products and how they can help retailers build sales,” says Pirrone. “Positive initial contact is critical and the opportunity these meetings create for follow up is invaluable.”

Given his products have a strong penetration in drug and mass, Pirrone says the GMDC conference is a great vehicle for helping him network and expand his business in the supermarket channel. “The ability to put your product into a buyers’ hands and explain why it is unique is priceless for companies such as ours,” he says.

Not only does the conference serve as his company’s primary vehicle for meeting with buyers, Pirrone says the face-to-face meetings also help them strengthen their existing relationships with companies and give them an opportunity to meet buyers who may be new to the company. “The reality is grocers either carry a very small selection of cold packs or none at all which means they are leaving money on the table by not highlighting this segment,” he says. “The conference serves as a great platform for us to explain the value of the category and convince buyers not to give their customers a reason to walk across the street to Walgreens.”

Navajo Manufacturing
As a long-time attendee, Mike Stotts, vice president of sales for Navajo Manufacturing, a Denver-based trial and travel products company, says he’s excited to attend the GMDC conference and appreciates the opportunity it presents to be involved in the industry on a more personal level. Calling it the most important conference of the year for his company, Stotts says among other things, it provides an important learning venue.

“One way we can grow our business and that of our retailer partners is to understand their challenges and their go-to-market strategies,” he says. Information gleamed from this learning, adds Stotts, enables his company to develop products and programs that address both retailer and consumer needs.

The company’s objective this year is to garner as much knowledge about the trends and buying preferences retailers are experiencing. “Our many past innovations that have reinvigorated categories experiencing flat sales have been a direct result of these meetings. Additionally, we have several new innovations we will be bringing to the market and we will be sharing these with the retail executives during the SEC format,” says Stotts.

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