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Inside: non-foods.

To some of the older, perhaps more jaded attendees, the meeting was not much more than a "gathering of the clan." But to the great majority, it was a valuable experience offering practical applications.

The event was the GM/HBA Conference, co-sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Held in Dallas' Fairmont Hotel, it brought together 162 people from all parts of the country, a crowd twice the size of FMI/GMA's first joint meeting last year.

The representation was broad. Forty retail companies of all sizes--from Safeway to single-store operators--were represented, along with 37 manufacturers, five wholesalers, a major broker and the presidents of two major service merchandising firms.

While opinions varied on the quality of the program, there was great interest in the meeting's prelude: visits to three new stores. On Sunday afternoon, the day before the general session, two chartered buses carried visitors to new outlets operated by Minyard's, Tom Thumb and Safeway. At Safeway's "high tech" style superstore in Arlington Heights, top division executives and the store manager discussed the store's concept with the visitors.

The open, friendly spirit created during the visits established a good mood that extended through the evening's reception and dinner and into the day-an-a-half program that concluded Tuesday. Highlights included:

* A keynote address by Thomas McCarthy, vice president and division manager of Tom Thumb Stores, a division of Cullum Companies, both based in Dallas. In a slide presentation, he described Tom Thumb's move to combination stores, aided by Cullum's purchase of a local drugstore chain. He said that in the company's experience combination stores net a full percentage point more than conventional stores and attract a substantially higher per-customer purchase.

* In "What's New & Now in GM and HBA," Paul Reuter, president of Supermarket Insights, and Roy White, executive editor of HBA Insights, reviewed trends in other retail outlets as well as supermarkets and indicated that supermarkets will be facing tough non-foods competition in the future. Reuter stirred things up by largely attributing non-foods gains in supermarkets to the advance of superstores and combos and by saying that GM's supermarket growth is threatened by specialty and service sections for foods.

* Consultant Bill Bishop presented the results of a new non-foods survey commissioned by FMI and developed with ICD-Hearst. Perhaps the most significant findings were the wide variations between store formats for non-foods' share of sales and space and in percent margins.

* In perhaps the most controversial part of the program, some manufacturer coop advertising policies were criticized by several non-foods merchandisers from smaller chains, especially those supplied by distributors.

Other program events included a case-study workshop on non-foods event merchandising and new-store product presentation, conducted by Consultant Allen "Bud" Levis; non-foods trends in using scanning information, by Richard Shulman of Industry Systems Development Corp.; and a Progressive Grocer visual presentation of "goods" and "bads" in non-foods merchandising. More "Nuts and Bolts" Needed

While most comments on the meeting's content and format were highly favorable, there were calls from several retailers for more merchandising workshops. "We need a bigger time allotment to discuss ways to sell more product," complained one non-foods buyer. "More nuts and bolts," a publisher executive said. Almost everyone surveyed agreed that the contacts made at meetings and informal gatherings engendered useful ideas and exchanges.

What's ahead for the FMI/GMA nonfoods collaboration? Gary Ebben of FMI, who co-managed the session with GMA's Paul Kelly, says "the substantial increase in attendance plus the favorable comments show there is an industry need for this kind of meeting." Another conference, being planned for next year, is expected to draw an even larger crowd. It will be oriented to the suggestions indicated in a survey of those who attended the sessions and the conference's executive committee, which is made up equally of manufacturers and retailers.

"These are not selling meetings for manufacturers," he said. "They are designed for retailer education."

From this column's corner, the view is that continued growth in the FMI/GMA conference is assured and that--perhaps in tandem with the FMI Convention--it could evolve into a convention-like gathering with an exhibition area.
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Title Annotation:general merchandise, health and beauty aids
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Apr 1, 1984
Previous Article:It's back on track for GM.
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