Making a plan for GM

GMDC’s fall conference offers insights, innovation and new ways to connect and grow business across all general merchandise categories.

One look at the upcoming agenda and it is clear that attention to innovation continues to play a key role in the growth the Global Market Development Center (GMDC) GM marketing conference experiences each year. From regular events to a number of new items, the conference has something for everyone. This year’s GM event will take place September 6 to 10 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix.

candlelite“This conference will be a comprehensive event that leverages our association’s efforts to bring retail and wholesale, marketing, merchandising and product professionals together with manufacturers and solution providers,” says Mark Deuschle, vice president, business development and chief marketing officer for GMDC. “Here they can share information, best practices, products and insights on how stores can provide a total-shopping experience for today’s shoppers.”

Always a popular draw, the Senior Executive Conference (SEC) meetings will once again be offered. These 40-minute pre-scheduled meetings will take place on Friday and were created to help facilitate collaboration and business development. Deuschle says the SEC’s provide an environment that simulates senior level strategic dialogue. Hosted by suppliers and their executives, retailer/wholesaler members are invited to collaborate and help them develop categories and programs that are essential for presenting a shopping experience that meets the needs of today’s consumer.

GMDC’s signature Controlled Casual Conference appointments will take place on Saturday. Hosted by retail and wholesale members, the executive level meetings were designed to offer suppliers a forum to discuss category trends, new products and merchandise and promotional initiatives, to name a few.

To enhance productivity and connectivity, this year’s GM conference will again feature GMDC’s exciting new innovation, GMDC Connect Powered by Telepresence.

Additionally, GMDC has created the Innovation Station to help attendees get the most from their meetings. Users can connect their personal device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) to the GMDC cloud-based telepresence network. This will enable users to establish virtual business communications with other members. Experts will be on hand to offer a free consultation on how the program works and connect members at no charge.

New products are often the center of discussion at the conference and GMDC will once again feature the Showcase room, giving retailers and wholesalers attending the conference an up close and personal look at new products, promotions and merchandising innovations being offered by supplier and solution companies. “This is one of the best ways for a supplier to increase their industry visibility,” says Vickii Barnard, senior manager member of services for GMDC.

GMDC is also offering the Preview Box, a pre-conference program where suppliers can place selected products into the hands of every wholesaler/retailer attending the conference, offering them the opportunity to touch, see and use their new or best-selling products or innovative packaging prior to the conference—further increasing the possibility of securing on-site appointments and follow-up sales activity.

“In addition to the Showcase, there is no better way to have your product exposed and acknowledged by each Retailer member to drive awareness and build your brand,” says Barnard.

Business sessions will be featured as well. RetailNet Group’s Keith Anderson, vice president and senior analyst for its advisory practice will share insights on tomorrow’s winning store formats, the evolution of pricing strategies, next-generation loyalty and retention models, and a playbook for competing in a digital world.

GMDC is hosting a breakfast session on Sunday with Nielsen to provide an update on the GMDC/Nielsen GM Hierarchy and Sales Data Tool. Attendees of this session will be shown examples of the data reports and presentation tools available to support the new GM Category Hierarchy. Stuart Taylor, senior vice president, custom analytics with Nielsen, will provide an overview of the tool along with some of the category insights available through this new solution.

Monday afternoon’s business session, which GMDC is hosting with Nielsen, will offer state-of-the-industry insights on a dramatically expanded view of the GM department. Todd Hale, senior vice president, consumer and shopper insights with Nielsen, will use content from the GMDC/Nielsen GM offering to illustrate the importance of the GM department in helping retailers and manufactures achieve sales, growth and in connecting with shoppers that matter. Hale will then moderate a panel of industry leaders on how they leverage category insights to drive results.

Brand new this year is the Challenge Fair, hosted by GMDC and Guinness World Records. According to Deuschle, five fun and exciting Guinness World Records will be attempted during the dinner schedule.

Here is a glimpse at some of the key suppliers attending the conference and what they will be highlighting in Phoenix:

Renewing relationships is an important part of why officials at Avanti Press go to the conference, but they also hope to make retailers aware there that is room for more than one greeting card company to service grocers, especially when that company is a niche player with a unique position.

“We offer content that other vendors don’t provide,” says Mark Trobman, vice president of business development for the Detroit-based company. Humor-based cards is their specialty and as Trobman says, consumers are drawn to funny cards. “This is the number one type of card that is sold and yet most grocery stores don’t have a lot of branded humor content.” Avanti’s cards feature high-impact graphics with characters that the whole family loves, he adds. Trobman understands the pressure retailers are under to reduce space in the category, but guesses lack of growth is behind that. “Our cards can help change this and have a strong track record of drawing more attention to the card set,” he says.

Bradshaw International
Bradshaw International has been a member of GMDC since the 1980s and has had a permanent position on the board for many years. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based company’s focus at the conference is on driving sales and increasing productivity for its customers, most of which they already have solid relationships with, says Steve Ross, senior vice president of sales.

“We try to focus on bringing fresh ideas to the conference every year, offer ways in which we can create tie-ins with the food category or suggest innovative promotions to maximize business,” says Ross. The conference also affords the company the opportunity to listen to their customers’ concerns and discuss solutions.

Candle-lite officials say they are excited to be returning to the GMDC conference after a few years absence. One of the Cincinnati-based company’s focuses at the show will be reminding retailers of the strengths it brings to the candle category. Mark Cunningham, vice president of sales and marketing, says Candle-lite has retained the number one position in food drug and mass for the past two years and while category sales dipped slightly this year, Candle-lite sales were up 8.3%, adding the company currently has a 30% market share.

“We’re clicking on all cylinders across all channels this year, especially in grocery,” says Cunningham. Calling the conference an “ideal place to combine business and public relations,” Cunningham says the company will be highlighting both its leadership role as well as its existing lines including its Revere House premium scented candle line and Essential Elements Collection and new items such as Illuminate, a filled jarred candle collection featuring a full color decorative shrink sleeve on the cylinder jar, and Aroma Melts flameless fragrance system.

Design Design
Design Design offers products in the personal expression industry in categories that include greeting cards, paper tableware, gift packaging, cocktailing and stationery gifts. Design Design attended GMDC for the first time last year, launching its new brand and comprehensive product proposition.designdesign

Colin Littler, marketing director, for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company Littler, says one of the goals at this year’s conference is to convey to retailers that Design Design is a fresh, new, emerging brand of choice. “We are excited to share our successes with retailers and offer our unique proposition in the personal expression category. This show is such a powerful collection of attendees—the opportunities are everywhere and Design Design is committed to providing the best service to our existing customers to grow their business,” he says. Most recently, the company launched a line of cake candle designs and merchandising solutions. “We’re excited to show retailers this fun, fresh, brightly colored line of products that pop right off the display,” he says.

Designer Greetings
Traditional cards still comprise 80% of sales, but according to Suzanne Haines, vice president of marketing for Edison, N.J.-based Designer Greetings, specialty cards addressing alternative lifestyles and illnesses are two growing segments. Designer Greetings is keeping up with the times by offering titles such as Mom & Husband (versus Mom & Dad), Dad & Wife and its new ‘Cause It Matters line.

The company is also offering a new patriotic line called Home of the Brave and regional specialty cards such as Sweet 16. “There is a niche for premium products at a premium price,” says Haines. “Designer Greetings is very competitive with, for instance, our Designer Boutique line, an upscale handmade line of cards featuring embellishments on the cards such as ribbon, gems and tip-ons, but offered at competitive pricing.”

Hanna’s Candle Co.
Hanna’s Candle Co. is launching a collection of candle and home fragrance products under the Hanna’s at Home brands available to grocery, mass and drug store chains. The launch showcases three different size modern tumblers with a black lid and two sizes of pillars, votives and melts. Also available are licensed products for Hershey’s and Jolly Rancher. Officials at Hanna’s will also be talking to retailers about Benditaroma, its new line of Hispanic candles featuring pillars, container candles, melts, Aromabeads, incense and a tea light warmer. “We’re excited about this launch and the potential customer following it will attract,” says Helen Hattabaugh, senior brand manager for the Fayetteville, Ariz.-based company.

Hanna’s continues to focus on the private label side of business and year-to-date the company has had had a 50% overall increase in its private label business. Through its many POP displays Hanna’s can help retailers build incremental sales in the category. “If we can get the consumer to shop a floor display, PDQ tray, wing rack and the like, we are positive we’ll have a customer for life because we offer a superior product at an affordable price,” says Hattabaugh.

Navajo Manufacturing
Denver-based Navajo Manufacturing services products across five major categories in the mass channels. The Denver-based company will be focusing on the categories and programs where its retail partners are enjoying strong growth and profitability. Company officials will be sharing category information such as consumer insights and buying patterns as well as what Navajo Manufacturing is doing to not only meet these demands, but also anticipating future trends through their extensive research. Officials will also be sharing success stories from the industry and talking about what some retailers are doing to dramatically grow their business in these key categories. New merchandising options will be also discussed as well as emerging new products.

“Retailers that are participating in these categories with Navajo Manufacturing are enjoying high double-digit comp store growth,” says Mike Stotts, senior vice president, sales and marketing. “It is our desire to share our insights and to assist retailers in experiencing the same profitable sales growth in their stores.”

Now Designs
Now Designs has a long history of developing custom seasonal programs for a variety of North American grocery chains. Company officials say the show provides an ideal opportunity to develop new partnerships with retailers and to discuss their offerings. Bradley Kalmek, major accounts manager for the Blaine, Wash.-based company, says they will be meeting with retailers to discuss its Summer 2014 promotional program, “Coca-Cola and BBQ Go Hand in Hand.”

As the official Coca-Cola kitchen and tabletop licensee, Now Designs will be presenting its vision for how Coke and BBQ themed merchandise coordinate in the retail environment. “Coca-Cola remains one of the top brands around and the tie in with BBQ makes perfect sense for the hot summer months,” says Kalmek. Aside from Now Designs’ stocking programs, company officials will also be discussing the possibility of developing custom or private label programs in the housewares category with existing and potential customers.

While there are a number of reasons that bring Rodale to the conference each year, officials for the Emmaus, Pa.-based company say the opportunity to network with retailers is the top reason. “That’s where the rubber meets the road. The opportunity to have this face-to-face interaction between a vendor and a buyer is irreplaceable,” says Dick Terlaak Poot, senior national marketing director.

Not wanting to squander time, Rodale officials pack a lot into their meetings at the conference, says Terlaak Poot. This year, the three top areas officials at Rodale will be discussing reviewing performance of the category and individual publications, sharing the “FMI/Rodale Shopping for Health Survey” insights and ways to increase register rings via in-store cross merchandising opportunities.

Whink Products
Whink Products will be focusing on a number of items. Some of the newer ones include Uniform Wash laundry pre-treat, which comes in an untippable pyramid bottle and Septic Treatment, a state-of-the-art dissolvable enzyme packet for human and pet potty digesters. “GMDC is our chance to present the retailer with new products as well as explain some of our more enticing programs for existing products,” says Steve Throssel, CEO of the Eldora, Iowa-based company. “Equally important, it’s also a time when we can connect socially and enjoy what has become a difficult marketplace as a fraternity of business professionals.”

Recently, Whink rolled out a series of national television announcements that appeal to retailers who practice EDLP and limit their promotion spend. Hi-lo retailers who rely on promotions are also in for a treat, say officials. Whink is running a series of discount and “buddy packs” specials to create an enticing value package for the consumer as well as the retailer.

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