WASHINGTON -- The Food Marketing Institute here said the use of technology to improve retail operations, the employment crunch and the effect of consolidation will become primary focuses of its meetings in 2000.
Those themes will be prevalent at the FMI's MarkeTechnics meeting Feb. 20-22 in San Francisco, at its annual convention May 7-10 in Chicago and at the invitation-only Midwinter Executive Conference Jan. 23-26 in Scottsdale, Ariz., Michael Sansolo, senior vice president, told SN.
Technology will take center stage at the MarkeTechnics event, whose theme will be "Leveraging Opportunities Through Technology."
According to Sansolo, the meeting will look at e-commerce in all forms, including business-to-business and business-to-consumers, as well as at how organizations must evolve to meet changing market demands.
He said the offerings at the 2000 MarkeTechnics show will be somewhat broader-based than in the past, with a heavy emphasis on uses of technology for marketing, "so it should be very helpful to operating and marketing people and also to human resources people, who will be interested in learning how technology will change our organizations and what kinds of people we will need to bring into the industry to make the best utilization of technology."
The convention's general sessions will feature presentations by Patricia Seybold, a consultant and author, on making e-commerce consumer-friendly, and by Brian Tulgen, an employment consultant, on how companies can stay lean and flexible and still have access to the talent they need.
MarkeTechnic workshops will cover such topics as e-commerce, customer-specific marketing, leveraging the power of the Internet, consumer data and privacy, and integration challenges of consolidation.
One new aspect of MarkeTechnics 2000 will be the closing session -- an idea-exchange luncheon at which industry leaders will look back and forward at how technology is changing the industry. "The idea-exchange will allow those in attendance to compare notes and review what they've seen and experienced at the show and look ahead to the trends that are developing that will affect their stores in 2001, 2002 and beyond," Sansolo said.
The FMI will hold two conferences concurrent with the MarkeTechnics convention -- its annual loss-prevention conference and its new banking conference. According to Sansolo, the combination of those two events will allow retail loss-prevention executives to talk with banking executives about such topics as in-store banks and automated teller machines, which increase the threat of theft and the danger to store customers.
At its annual Chicago convention the FMI will again schedule a Sunday morning opening session and a Tuesday afternoon closing sesssion, as it did for the first time at the 1999 event.
In response to member requests, the opening session will feature the annual presentation of Speaks -- the broad overview of the state of the industry that has traditionally been offered as a workshop session on Monday morning. "It makes a lot of sense to kick off the meeting with Speaks," Sansolo said.
As a followup, all Monday morning workshop sessions will feature in-depth looks at some of the themes raised in Speaks, he said, including employment and people issues, technology and competition.
The Speaks presentation will be repeated at a Tuesday morning workshop session, Sansolo noted.
The Tuesday afternoon general session will feature James Carville and Mary Matalin, the husband-and-wife team that looks at politics from opposing left and right perspectives. "With the likely Presidential nominees apparent by May, they will be looking at the prospects in the general election," Sansolo said.
Brian Tully, senior vice president, said the convention's exhibit floor will feature two new booths -- a pavilion for whole health and another pavilion called Supertech Mart that will highlight a variety of new technology applications.
Tully said the 2,500-square-foot whole-health pavillion will feature a variety of natural food, vitamins, herb supplements, over-the-counter remedies and healthy foods, plus nutritional information to educate retailers about the growing needs of consumers to find products that address specific health issues.
According to Tully, "The supermarket is the only retail format capable of carrying all these products, so the exhibit area will feature the different types of products a store could consider stocking and provide information about whole-health foods and products, which are expected to be a $100 million market next year."
The Supertech Mart exhibit will display a variety of technologies dealing with consumers, store management, intelligence, demand management and e-enabled enterprises that are available now and that will be developed in the future, Tully explained.
The 15,000-square-foot pavilion will enable attendees to view a video giving an overview of retail technology, followed by tours of the pavilion, live demonstrations and printed support materials. "Our intent is to demonstrate technologies that are available immediately, focusing on how they are integrated into the total store concept," Tully told SN.
"It makes no sense just to look at each piece of equipment because we don't want people just to view the hardware. We want to explain the systems so people understand the intelligence behind the equipment and the efficiencies that can come from integrating those technologies into their companies."
The booth will not focus on any specific manufacturers, Tully noted. "Each company will have its own exhibit on the floor. It's the technology that's being presented at the pavilion that's important. We will choose which technologies to display based on criteria we've developed, and we intend to be as neutral as possible in making those choices. But at the same time we want to be very educational."
Tully said the FMI expects the Supertech Mart exhibit to become a permanent part of the exhibit floor at future conventions.
The Midwinter Executive Conference will include a panel discussion on new strategies for attracting and holding store-level employees, featuring Christian Haub, president and chief executive officer of A&P, Montvale, N.J., and Margaret Urquhart, president of Lowes Food Stores, Winston-Salem, N.C.; a Deloitte & Touche presentation on industry consolidation; a session on connecting with inner-city consumers by Michael Porter, a Harvard business professor; and a panel discussion, on using data-based marketing to build customer loyalty, featuring executives of D&W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Sobeys, Stellarton, Nova Scotia; Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio; and Foodland Super Market, Honolulu.