CHICAGO -- The show, as they say, will go on.
The 1995 Exclusively HBA Trade Show runs here March 22 to 24 for its sixth incarnation, and supermarket retailers planning to attend said they will be scoping for new products and strengthening their ties with health and beauty care vendors.
Jay Spaulding, show principal, said preregistration for the 1995 edition was ahead of last year, with over 300 retailer and distributor companies and 300 HBC supplier-exhibitors registered. This is so despite rumors among food store buyers and HBC manufacturers regarding the trade show's possible demise. In 1994, Exclusively HBA drew a total of 322 retailer and distributor companies, down 13% from 371 in 1993.
"The show is here for the long run," Spaulding told SN. He said supermarket retailer and wholesaler chains that will attend the show include Aldi, Batavia, Ill.; Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill., and its Omni Superstore division, Bridgeview, Ill.; Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill.; King Soopers, Denver; Niemann Foods, Quincy, Ill.; Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, Highland, Ind., and a few others. While at least a dozen past attendees of Exclusively HBA contacted by SN said they would not attend the 1995 edition for a variety of reasons, those who said they plan to go have several goals in mind.
"Any time you have a chance to talk to the manufacturers, for our size company, that's the biggest advantage [of the show]," said Andy Raab, vice president at Strack & Van Til. "Our biggest concern is always whether we are
getting offered the same access to programs that the bigger chains are getting."
Keith Beckett, general merchandise-HBC supervisor at Niemann Foods, said "changes in the market and in opportunities we're missing in HBA overall" are prompting him to attend Exclusively HBA this year. "The HBA business is still a highly changing market with a lot of new packaging, new looks and new products," he added. "If we're not staying up with it, we'll be falling behind, because our competition will stay on top of these things."
Two buyers from large supermarket chains in the Midwest said they will attend the show mostly to look at new products and pick up on emerging HBC trends.
A buyer from a large Chicago-area chain who will attend the show said he will go "not to meet with our current vendors, but to look for other new products that may be an opportunity for our stores."
Raab, who will send his nonfood buyer to the show, added, "At the show, you have an opportunity to see if there are any product lines out there you're not carrying, which is usually the case with new or smaller manufacturers, even though sometimes what they have is better than what you've got now."
John Massaua, senior vice president of purchasing-merchandising at Millbrook Distribution Services, said Exclusively HBA is "unique because you can rub elbows with other people who are not necessarily with food stores."