ALMOST SHOW TIME

As year's end approaches, we're all ready to take a little break. But not so fast. December may offer a hiatus from nonstop travel and meeting schedules, but activities soon will start up again.That fact is amply illustrated by this week's SN, which contains a big listing of upcoming trade conventions, workshops and seminars. The issue is also a reminder of how densely packed the calendar can get

As year's end approaches, we're all ready to take a little break. But not so fast. December may offer a hiatus from nonstop travel and meeting schedules, but activities soon will start up again.

That fact is amply illustrated by this week's SN, which contains a big listing of upcoming trade conventions, workshops and seminars. The issue is also a reminder of how densely packed the calendar can get right after the first of the year, especially for those most involved in the industry and its activities. This SN is a good one to keep around as the year progresses as a reminder of what's going on.

Take a look at the list, which begins on Page 14. It's always a little startling to see how few days there are during the year when no meeting of one sort or another is being staged.

As always, those who are in the business of running show and seminar venues -- among a host of other forms of business -- are constantly planning ways to make their information offers fresh and relevant to this constantly changing industry.

To find out what's in the works for next year in these regards, SN editors conducted brief interviews with principals at the big-three trade associations connected with food retailing and wholesaling to find what's changing. The big three are Food Marketing Institute, Food Distributors International and National Grocers Association.

Here's an overview of what principals of the three organizations see happening next year. More detailed comments from each are in this week's SN.

Food Marketing Institute: Y2K concerns will fade sooner or later. After the year turns, something, or maybe nothing, will happen. Should something happen, solutions will be found and normality will return. Should nothing happen, so much the better. In any case, once the hurdle of the new year is passed, it's reasonable to assume that a new look will be taken at technology and how new or modified applications can be used. So, technology and its uses is one of the themes that will pertain to FMI events in the new year.

Food Distributors International: Retail consolidation is one thing -- wholesale consolidation is another. As the wholesale business concentrates -- and it's concentrating to a degree not yet seen on the retail side -- the challenge put in front of FDI is how to remain relevant. In a bid to continue to return value to members, FDI has developed a multilevel slate of activities for the new year. The agenda involves research into retail coverage and food service; a renewed commitment to sales and marketing information, and a highlighting of events connected with the Presidential election. * National Grocers Association: Center-store sales are the heart of the supermarket business, but are an aspect of merchandising that seemingly receives little attention. Part of NGA's agenda this year will be to help independent retailers and their wholesalers refocus energy into the center-store arena, and bring back sales that have been lost to other classes of trade over the years. Another theme will center on how independent retailers can put parking lots to work.