The Global Market Development Center (GMDC) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) are breaking new ground with a colocated show that promises to create a new, different and productive venue — and provide a boost to both the GMDC Health Beauty Wellness (HBW) and FMI Supermarket Pharmacy conferences.
For each of the shows, the new format will engage more people, provide a wider selection of related subject matter and likely increase the value individual attendees derive from each conference.
But the real value of the show lies in the benefits that will accrue back at the office and in members’ stores.
“The colocation allows executive teams from pharmacy, HBC, the nutrition area and the center store to schedule meetings with suppliers, depending on the topic,” FMI vice president of pharmacy services Cathy Polley says. “Our members are working internally to identify the right team members to bring, and we are seeing a definite expansion beyond the core pharmacy attendees.”
The structure of the colocation calls for both conferences to unfold as they normally do, but with many opportunities for mutual interchange. Indeed, the construct of the colocated meeting is a fine balance between preserving the character of each and opening up opportunities for integration and synergy.
Several of the event’s business sessions will have joint applicability, particularly those that address health and wellness issues specifically. Receptions and networking are integrated also, and this is vitally important.
The GMDC Roundtables event has been integrated, and the format — which promotes productive and educational interchange across a table — is expected to go far in terms of integration and synergy.
But the real key — and the element that promotes integration back at the office — is GMDC’s Senior Executive Conferences (SECs) program, a relatively new and increasingly popular feature of the association’s HBW Conference. This programming promotes active, immediate and pertinent cooperation between pharmacy and health, beauty and wellness.
“The SECs are built around a combined pharmacy and HBW concept in a truly holistic sense,” GMDC president and chief executive officer David McConnell says. “We’re looking to bring together on the retail side executives from pharmacy, HBC and the center store, representing retail as a single team, to explore broad-based health/beauty/wellness opportunities with HBW suppliers. We want their SEC planning process to begin back at their headquarters.”
Adds Polley: “Our attendees are there to explore all aspects of how to combine health, wellness and beauty into the supermarket shopping experience. There is significant value in meeting with pharmacy and HBW suppliers to explore ways to integrate health and wellness into their total store.”
One of the great holy grails of mass market retailing is to integrate pharmacy with the remainder of the store. For supermarkets, the potential rewards of such integration could be immense — collaborative marketing and merchandising initiatives combining the vast array of healthy food, O-T-C products, vitamins and supplements, and personal care items with the only department in the store with a health professional in charge.
Through the SECs, the colocated conferences may be taking a first and decisive step toward achieving this holy grail.
The basis of the SECs is that combined teams of pharmacy and HBW executives will meet for strategic interchange with key HBW suppliers, food companies and service providers to forge alliances and programs based on health and wellness.
This has several implications. One is that the two departments attend the SEC together, which means that they must plan ahead for a joint, unified message. This sows the seeds of cooperation and helps to break down barriers back at retailer headquarters. It brings suppliers into the loop with the collaborative efforts. It prompts a broad retailer view of how health, beauty and wellness can be projected to the customer base.
“GMDC has made a commitment to HBW,” McConnell says. “We hired a specialist in the area to manage it. We are issuing a major study on the subject. We are colocating our conference with that of FMI. We have opened up our SEC program to a collaborative format because that makes a great deal of sense in pursuing our holistic approach to HBW.
“We want to change the way our members approach this important opportunity back at their own operations, not just here at the colocated conference. And we think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
EDITOR’s NOTE: Roy White is vice president of The Food Institute and has covered the food, drug and discount retailing scene for several decades as a journalist.