PHOENIX -- The Health and Beauty Care Marketing Conference of the General Merchandise Distributors Council, held here earlier this month, saw a 12% gain in company attendance and a 9% gain in delegate attendance, said Gary Crawford, director of nonfoods, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, and chairman of the association. Crawford reported that the event attracted 46 new HBC suppliers, as well as 12 new and 11 guest wholesale/retail companies. "This means we are more relevant to the marketplace," said David McConnell, president and chief executive officer, GMDC. "We tweaked our business model by lengthening the appointments. The net result was that we attracted more of the right retailers because they could see more productivity out of the process." McConnell also noted that a new task force dedicated to evaluating the GMDC conferences met for the first time this week. "We need to have continual improvement as a part of our process," McConnell said. Crawford added, "We asked this group to begin its processes by focusing on making this [HBC] conference better. The longer [12- and 24-minute] appointments are just phase one of what we see as many important conference enhancements to be implemented in the next 12 months."