The most eagerly anticipated event in the annals of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores — or, for that matter, any other retail trade organization — is finally upon us.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NACDS Total Store Expo, David Pinto, NACDS board, retail executives, mass retailing, retailer, supplier, Marketplace Conference

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Inside This Issue - Opinion

A primer on how to view Total Store Expo

August 5th, 2013
by David Pinto

The most eagerly anticipated event in the annals of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores — or, for that matter, any other retail trade organization — is finally upon us.

The result is that some 5,200 people — a group that includes the NACDS board — are descending on Las Vegas to meet, talk, discuss, disagree and resolve those issues that continue to define the buyer-seller relationship.

The one question that remains to be answered on the eve of the first NACDS Total Store Expo is this: What now?

Truth is, it is the one question that has been asked, repeatedly, since the first enrollees began signing up for Total Store Expo some nine months ago. For some unaccountable reason, the supplier community appears particularly baffled by both the purpose and agenda of this meeting. Their response has been varied and, at times, confusing. Many suppliers are sending everyone who really cares to Vegas. Others are sending no one. And although some 1,200 retail executives at all levels of authority and responsibility will be on hand, many suppliers have not bothered to organize appointments or draw up agendas for meetings.

To resolve this conflict, here in capsule form is a primer on how to approach the meeting: Go with the flow.

If suppliers are uncertain about this conference, so, too, are the retailers who will be in attendance. For Total Store Expo is a new adventure for all parties. And all parties are within their rights to approach the meeting with a degree of uncertainty and ­confusion.

However, the best and the brightest in both the retailer and supplier communities are neither uncertain nor confused. They’ve strategized, planned an agenda, determined what they will do, how they will deploy their people, what they intend to accomplish. However, to help those companies — both retail and supplier — that are arriving in Vegas without an agenda, here are some tips.

• Explore the show. As the NACDS people have been explaining — or trying to — for the better part of a year, Total Store Expo is not a reincarnation of the Marketplace Conference. Rather, it resembles nothing so much as a carnival. There’s lots to do. Lots to see. The presentations are, in the main, worthwhile. A few are eye-opening. A handful are not to be missed. Don’t miss them.

• Make some new friends. The show is special, among other reasons, for its attendees. Virtually the entire mass retailing roster will attend. Don’t schedule appointments with the same people you met with last week, or last month, or … This is an occasion to expand sales by expanding relationships and, through them, business opportunities, rather than by increasing sales with companies you’re already in business with. Remember, 1,200 retail executives and 4,000 supplier execs will be available for meetings in Las Vegas. Somewhere in this group is someone you don’t yet know.

• Walk the exhibit floor. For suppliers, this is particularly important. Many, concerned about missing the opportunity to collar a retailer walking by, never leave their booth. That’s smart — to a point. But it only requires one person to cover a booth. For retailers as well, mobility should be a priority. Retailers will learn more by walking the floor than by hanging out with a few friends and waiting for coffee.

• Make a list. Surely, some reasons exist for scheduling a visit to Las Vegas in August. What are the priorities? What should be accomplished? What new concept, product, program, initiative should be pursued? The time to answer these questions is now, before the show begins. Not later, after the show is over.

• Have a good time. Too many attendees, both retailer and supplier, are more concerned with proving that the show is worthwhile than they are with making the show worthwhile. It really matters very little who you’ve met. What matters more is what you’ve learned — about retailing, retailers, the competition, the missed opportunities, the challenges.

Finally, remember this: Not long after you get home you’ll be called into a meeting — if you haven’t yourself called the meeting — to discuss next year’s Total Store Expo. The very same questions will be raised: How big a commitment will your company make? Who will attend? What will be the objectives? Only this time, with the initial Expo a thing of the past, you’d better have some concrete answers.