CHICAGO -- Retailers interviewed by SN at the Food Marketing Institute Show here last week said they found the combination of multiple trade shows at this year's event to be beneficial, and several said they planned to bring more staff with them next year.
FMI for the first time this year combined its trade show with its own pharmacy conference, along with the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association's Produce Expo and All Things Organic, the trade show of the Organic Trade Association. The Fancy Food Show and U.S. Export Product Showcase continued their co-location relationship with FMI.
"Combining shows provides a way for FMI to increase show attendance," said Bill MacAloney, president, Jax Markets, Anaheim, Calif. "Attendance has been shrinking for the last few years -- first because of 9/11, last year because of SARS -- but attendance is up this year because the combination of shows brings more people in."
An FMI spokesman said attendance figures were not yet available two days after the show ended last week.
MacAloney said the combination of shows "provides a great opportunity for one-stop shopping" among fancy foods, produce and the basic FMI show, "which enables companies larger than ours to send several people to one location instead of sending them to three or four different shows. In today's economy, people want to go to just one show."
Bruce Peterson, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., said he thinks trade shows are evolving.
"I think associations in general are going to have to think through how they gain revenue," he said. "What I saw on the floor [Sunday] was a high degree of mobility, and I remember 10 or 15 years ago on a Sunday you couldn't move in [here]."
"When you're a big company, the bum rap you get is that suppliers don't have access," he said. "This gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with these folks."
"I like the idea of a big, open produce area near the Fancy Foods Show because both demonstrate exactly what consumers are looking for," said Al Plamann, president and chief executive officer, Unified Western Grocers, Los Angeles. "There's a great intersection there."
"We brought more people because of the produce show and because of the Pharmacy Conference," said Ron Pearson, chairman, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa. "We had a number of our pharmacy experts in here, plus we had some of our other operating officers who were in and out of the Pharmacy Conference. We brought more people to the produce show. It allowed a number of operational people to see produce, meat, groceries, pharmacy -- every part of our business all at once.
"The combining of the Pharmacy Conference is another step that clearly tells the industry that pharmacy is a great part of the supermarkets," he added.
Jack Brown, chairman, president and CEO, Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif., said the company brought its produce merchandiser to the convention for the first time "because having the produce show here offers him an opportunity to see new things. He and the equipment people are also able to look at cases and other display fixtures that we weren't exposed to before, so we're able to take a real team approach to produce."
"Next year, we'll bring more people," said Nicholas D'Agostino Jr., chairman and CEO, D'Agostino's, Larchmont, N.Y. "I'll have my produce buyer, because this is his show."
The president of another regional retailer, who asked not to be identified, also said he planned to bring his produce buyer to the show next year.
One complaint some retailers had was that the show had become too large and complex, making it difficult to experience the entire event.
"It's almost so big it's tough to get in the education part and the whole show," said Randy Bohaty, produce director for B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb. "It's a nice show but it's a matter of logistically getting to it all."