Nonfoods Talk: Pumping new blood into Total Store Expo

Exhibitors bemoaned retailer attendance at the NACDS signature event, but with a few tweaks Total Store Expo can be a boon to the nonfoods business.   

So how was NACDS Total Store Expo for you? Seth Mendelson

Well my guess is that most of you were not there, based on the amount of retail traffic in the aisles of the four-day event in Las Vegas in August. It was certainly noticed by many of the suppliers who spent big bucks to attend the show in hopes of influencing as many merchants as possible.

With the exception of the always popular and successful “Meet the Retailer” one-on-one event on the first day, retailers were few and far between. Some exhibitors said that they did not see many at their booths and were not sure they would be attending next year when it travels cross-country to Boston.

Let’s be totally clear here. Total Store Expo is the best exhibit hall-based event in the industry and any retailer that hopes to be a player, in nonfoods in particular, needs to be there to see what new products are in the pipeline. I am shocked that so few chose to attend but hope that as the new format of the event takes hold and publicity builds for the event more will attend next year.

NACDS has to improve the expo as well. First, they have to change the show’s hours. For some reason, they opened the exhibit hall for just five hours on the first two days and kept it open for an excruciating eight hours on the last day. I left halfway through that last day, but was told by some people who stayed to the bitter end that the place was a ghost town by the close of business.

Also, Boston is not Las Vegas. It is more expensive than Vegas and it is much less centralized. NACDS officials will have to work to get the best hotel deals in town for attendees and they better have a plan to get people to and from the Boston Convention Center.

However, let me say it again. Total Store Expo serves as a platform for the industry. If it fails, it hurts all of mass retail and we do not need that right now.

The baby bust is going to hurt your business in many categories. Frankly, there is not very much retailers can do about it.

A report on CNN and its websites in early September stated that the fertility rate in the U.S. has fallen to 63.0 births per 1,000 women in 2012. As recently as 2007, it was nearly 70 births per 1,000 women. For comparison sake, it was 118 births in 1960 and way back in 1909 it was 127 births.

Experts say that the combination of a poor economy and changing lifestyles is the reason for the dramatic drop in newborns. A sluggish economy derails the dreams of many newlyweds, who are postponing having kids to concentrate on their careers and making ends meet, not to mention paying back huge college loans. Changing lifestyles have more to do with the way consumers see their futures and how many feel that having too many kids—in some cases any kids—could tie them down to a way of living they do not want.

Of course at the top of the list of industries affected are the baby food and baby care categories. Less babies obviously means less mouths to feed and bodies to keep clean and healthy. That means less baby food products sold, not to mention fewer sales of diapers and baby HBC items. However these two extremely important segments to the supermarket industry are not the only ones that will get pounded in coming years.

While this trend will impact all aspects of the supermarket, the nonfoods department will take its own hits. Everything from over-the-counter medications to school products to batteries and magazines could take a hit with a continued slowdown in births. Pet care, for example, will be at risk because fewer families normally means fewer pets. Fewer kids mean less youngsters getting sick, which means a slowdown in sales of childrens’ HBC items. The list goes on and on from there.

Yet there is always a silver lining. Fewer children mean that indulgent Generation Xers and Millennials will be spending more money on themselves. That should mean more sales in such nonfoods categories as housewares, sporting goods and home/office. Heck, and I am not trying to be cute here, but the family planning section should also get a nice uptick in sales.

Seth Mendelson can be reached at 646-274-3507, or


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