The National Association of Chain Drug Stores ended its quarter-century run of Marketplace Conferences here last month.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Marketplace Conference, Total Store Expo, NACDS Marketplace Conference, NACDS Total Store Expo, Steve Anderson, Pharmacy Conference, Distribution and Logistics Conference, Ken Patterson, Kerr Drug, trade show, category managers, Kelli King, Richard Monks

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NACDS Marketplace takes last curtain call

July 16th, 2012

DENVER – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores ended its quarter-century run of Marketplace Conferences here last month.

While the 2012 event marked the end of the association’s premier trade show, Marketplace is not going away. Starting next year, the event will be part of the association’s Total Store Expo (TSE), which will combine NACDS’ Marketplace, Pharmacy Conference, and Distribution and Logistics Conference into a single megashow.

“This is the end of an era,” Kerr Drug director of general merchandise Ken Patterson said on the final day of the conference.”I have been to nearly 20 Marketplaces, and it has definitely changed over the years.”

For instance, he and other category managers and buyers at the show noted, it was more difficult to find new and unique items at this year’s ­Marketplace.

“I haven’t really seen anything as innovative as in past years,” Kerr category manager for cosmetics and beauty Kelli King said after walking the floor for two days. “There is a shift in what companies are stressing. But a lot of it isn’t really that unique or new.”

While longtime attendees Patterson and King left Marketplace after seeing only a handful of new items that may find their way onto Kerr’s shelves, the show proved more beneficial for some suppliers — especially many of those attending Marketplace for the first time.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the reaction we received,” said Jim Moscou, chief executive officer at Sir Richard’s Condom Co., which was showing its line of all-natural latex contraceptives. “We came here to introduce our brand to a part of the industry for which we feel it will be a good fit, and I think we reached many of the right people. The response from the retailers was nothing short of tremendous, and they expressed a lot of curiosity about our line. We will definitely come back next year.”

Sir Richard’s was one of two new suppliers of male contraceptives at the show. Jarden Corp.’s Billy Boy, the best-selling condom in Germany, used Marketplace to introduce itself to this country’s drug store buyers.

Executives say the show was the ideal forum to roll out the brand.

“It wasn’t a perfect event, but it was pretty successful,” general manager Matt Shifrin said as the show was winding down.

“It has been a great opportunity to meet the buyers and other manufacturers in a well-laid-out setting,” he said. “We saw most of the right people, and I think we were able to get the message out about what Billy Boy has to offer.”

Meanwhile, Marketplace veterans said that while the structure of the conference has changed over the years, going from one where hordes of retailers would wander into a booth to inquire about products to one where a majority of the business is done through preset appointments, the event continues to be one of the most important shows of the year.

“It’s a good way to show where we are going in the year ahead,” said Jeff Morgan, vice president of sales at Advanced Beauty Systems Inc., which markets the bodycology, Dr. Teal’s and Cantu lines of skin care and bath items.

“Since we are in multiple categories, it gives us access to a wide range of retailers,” he said. “The feedback we get here helps us get a good handle on where to take the brands.”

With Marketplace set to become part of the larger TSE next summer, attendees said they are looking forward to the bigger event, but with a little trepidation.

“We’re still working on what our game plan for TSE will be,” Beiersdorf Inc. president and general manager Bill Graham said during a break at the show.

“There will be a wider range of people coming, and that may make scheduling a bit more complex,” he said. “But at the same time, we are looking forward to bringing our sales, marketing and supply chain groups together in one setting with similar on customer side. It will be a challenge but could also be a big opportunity for us.”

NACDS executives stress that while the days of Marketplace as a stand-alone event may be over, the conference’s impact on the industry is far from dead.

“Business opportunities abound at the NACDS Marketplace Conference, and attendees can look forward to those same opportunities and more at the NACDS Total Store Expo,” president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson says.