CGA REVAMPS EXPO FORMAT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Grocers Association here said it plans to adopt a new format for its annual Western Food Industry Expo next fall to make the event more time-efficient, including retailer review sessions and business conference suites.According to Peter Larkin, CGA president, the convention -- which encompasses retailers from eight Western states -- will reduce the number of exhibit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Grocers Association here said it plans to adopt a new format for its annual Western Food Industry Expo next fall to make the event more time-efficient, including retailer review sessions and business conference suites.

According to Peter Larkin, CGA president, the convention -- which encompasses retailers from eight Western states -- will reduce the number of exhibit booths in favor of an increased number of face-to-face review sessions between distributors and suppliers on the show floor.

"In the past, we relied on a traditional trade-show format that provided retailers and suppliers with an opportunity to meet," he said. "But that approach left too much to chance because many attendees spent too much time wandering the trade-show floor in hopes of meeting a particular business partner.

"With the new format, we are not leaving these meetings to chance. Instead, we'll provide an opportunity for exhibitors to meet face-to-face in pre-arranged meetings with their customers and potential customers."

CGA introduced the review sessions on a limited basis at last year's WFIE convention in the back of the exhibit hall, Larkin said -- a test that was successful enough that a large number of suppliers are opting for review sessions this year, he noted. Each 15-minute session will be pre-arranged during a four-hour period the first day of the convention and a two-hour period on the closing day.

The show will still include exhibit booths, Larkin said, "but the review sessions will be a more efficient and a less expensive way for those involved to accomplish the same objectives as meeting on the show floor."

This fall's show will have only about 80 booths on the show floor, compared with an average of 250 booths at previous WFIE and CGA conventions, Larkin said.

"We made the decision to limit the number of booths because in talking with suppliers, we thought going to sponsorships was more efficient for most companies and a less expensive way for them to accomplish the same objectives, and we agreed with them that it didn't make economic sense for them to build large booths when we could save them money and provide equal support to the association with the new format."

To host review sessions, suppliers will be required to become sponsors -- for $25,000, $10,000 or $5,000, depending on the ancillary benefits -- entitling them to host business conference suites just off the convention floor, where they can conduct meetings and hold hospitality functions.

The 2002 Expo is scheduled for Nov. 3 to 5 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. All events, including general sessions, floor exhibits, review sessions, conference suites and meals, will be under the same roof in Caesars Palace Pavilion, a freestanding facility next to the hotel.

According to Larkin, "The exhibits will be open from the moment the doors open in the morning until they close in the afternoon, so retailers will flow through the exhibits all day."

Instead of lasting three days, the Expo's business sessions have been reduced to two days "because we determined we could do all we needed to do in less time," Larkin said.

In addition, convention speakers will talk about general topics rather than operational issues, he said. "Instead of dividing the group into workshops on specific issues, our goal is to keep everyone together, so we're looking for a broader, more global message [in convention talks]."

Speakers will include two industry keynoters -- a retailer and a supplier -- who have not yet been signed, plus Dr. Robert M. Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Tom Peters, author of "In Search of Excellence"; and Larry Winget, who CGA describes as "a hilarious philosopher of success."