ARLINGTON, Va. -- The National Grocers Association here has decided to use the 2002 convention in Las Vegas, Feb. 12 to 14, to begin a transition to a totally new trade show format that eliminates exhibit booths by 2004.
NGA previously announced it would debut its new format all at once next year but later realized a phase-in period would be necessary, said Frank DiPasquale, NGA senior vice president.
DiPasquale said, "It has been a challenging task educating suppliers and retailers about the vision of the new format. And getting them to participate has had its difficulties. It is a very competitive market, and companies have a lot of other priorities."
Instead of an exhibit booth-free convention in 2002, there will be a reduced number of 160 exhibit booths, down from 230, said DiPasquale.
The NGA hopes to continue to eliminate booths each year, resulting in the totally interactive, booth-free environment in 2004, he said.
However, DiPasquale said that several national brand leaders like Pepsi, Kraft and Kellogg, as well as retailers like Pratt Foods Supermarkets, Shawnee, Okla., and Unified Western Grocers, Los Angeles, will be participating in interactive demonstrations.
The focus of the new format, titled Supermarket Synergy Showcase (S3), is on education, said DiPasquale. "This year's show is meant to educate participants and attendees about our vision for the future," he added. "The change is tough; it's not going to happen in just one year."
Tom Zaucha, NGA president and chief executive officer, said increased attention to three concepts led to the decision to alter the convention format: expense, interaction and education.
"Much of our decision was predicated by the fact that most exhibitors began to question if the growing expense of full-blown pavilion booths really created an adequate return on investment," he said. "Also, we wanted to create more of an atmosphere that promotes interaction between suppliers and retailers.
"What we've done is create workshops that translate into meaningful demonstrations on the show floor. This interactive educational experience gives attendees the opportunity to learn about new ways to drive sales and generate an overall higher level of performance at retail."
"NGA is all about cultivating business relationships, and the new convention format reflects our commitment to deliver value to our members every day of the year," Zaucha said. "As a result, sponsors of the convention will be able to communicate with our audience at the convention before, after and throughout the year, through a series of interactive tools we are developing.
"We believe that while traditional expositions may continue to have a role in a marketing mix, the format of S3 provides sellers an efficient, cost-effective forum to interact face-to-face with buyers, and profit when the demonstrations are conducted in concert with educational activities," he said.