PHOENIX -- Overall attendance at this month's General Merchandise Marketing Conference of GMDC, Colorado Springs, Colo., was up 10%, said Jim Wonderly, GMDC's chairman and vice president of GM/HBC merchandising at Ahold's American Sales Co., Lancaster, N.Y.
Retailer and wholesaler attendance was up from 208 a year ago to 219, with the number of company's participating up from 86 to 87. On the supplier side, there was a 7.2% increase in companies, from 388 to 416, and a 4.6% increase in delegate attendance, from 831 to 869. The spouse program also saw a 47% increase, Wonderly said.
"We're on a roll right now," said David McConnell, president and chief executive officer of GMDC. "There's a lot of energy around the association."
One reason for the increase is the GM conference has developed the reputation of offering a "treasure hunt experience" -- in other words, a show where buyers can discover new and unusual products, he said.
"That is a real attraction to the retailers," who have recognized that they need to do a better job in GM and seasonal products. "That's why they are here," McConnell said.
GMDC added roundtable meetings with suppliers for the first time, he said. These will be continued at the Health and Beauty Care Marketing Conference this fall, he said.
Looking ahead to the HBC conference, McConnell said membership retention and recruitment has grown, where it had been flat for the last couple of years. Longer, 50-minute Senior Executive Meetings will be tried at that event for the first time. "We've already got good momentum going on the HBC conference, " he said.
"We are feeling very excited about our 35th year," McConnell said. "We do feel like we are 35 years young as we aggressively pursue some fairly significant new approaches to our business model."