Q&A: Men behind Marketplace — Jim Whitman and Roy McGrath, NACDS

Jim Whitman (left) and Roy McGrath (right)

The 2011 NACDS Marketplace Conference will take place in Boston, June 25 to 28. More than 230 retail companies — representing more than $500 billion in annual buying power — and more than 90% of the consumer packaged goods industry is expected to attend. To learn more, Drug Store News talked with NACDS SVP member programs and services Jim Whitman and NACDS director of conference exhibits and registration Roy McGrath.

DSN: Why is Marketplace more important than ever? What’s new this year?

Jim Whitman: The 2011 NACDS Marketplace Conference is taking place at a very critical time. Within the retail sector — specifically within our industry — there is a greater emphasis on health and wellness. Consumers are looking for products that will improve their overall wellness and help them live healthier lifestyles. In addition, as global events continue to pose financial challenges, retailers are looking at ways to help their consumers get the most value out of their shopping experiences. The Marketplace Conference will reflect changes in how consumers are seeking to live well and shop smarter, and will offer opportunities to help retailers and suppliers continue to meet these consumer needs and continue to thrive in their businesses.

[As for what’s new,] NACDS strives to meet the needs of retailers and suppliers, so we strategize year-round to truly reflect those needs in this conference. New participants and new exhibitors often provide a sense of upcoming trends for the industry. This is helpful for retailers who may want to move into a new category or venture, or even for those who have already incorporated it and want to expand their presence. One example is convenience food. Regardless of the category or concept, one of the great things about the NACDS Marketplace Conference is that every year, it offers something fresh and relative for retailers and suppliers.

DSN: How has Meet the Market evolved over the years?

Whitman: Enabling small and medium-sized suppliers to have a jump-start on appointments has been critically important. In many cases, it enables suppliers to open the door with a retailer that they may not necessarily do business with on a regular basis. Similarly for retailers, it offers an introduction to small and mid-size companies that have products that might be of interest for their stores. More than 8,000 appointments occur during the eight-hour program — all before the exhibit floor has even opened. For retailers looking to find the newest products and industry trends, and suppliers looking for the opportunity to bring their products to market, the Meet the Market program really is a “must-do” component of the NACDS Marketplace Conference.

DSN: What can suppliers do to prepare and make the most of Marketplace?

Roy McGrath: We have an extensive collection of resources on our website at NACDS.org to assist those who are attending the conference for the first time. One item that is quite helpful is a comprehensive handbook for “first-timers” that provides tips on how to maximize the experience. We also conduct conference calls with first-time exhibitors to provide them an opportunity to hear more about the meeting, as well as ask questions. The first conference call was held recently and was well-received with about two-thirds of first-time registrants participating in the call. We will hold another call in May with a panel of retail and supplier industry professionals. Registrants will be able to ask questions about how to make the most of the conference.

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