FMI RESTRUCTURING GM/HBC CONFERENCE

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Attempting to boost attendance for its annual GM/HBC Conference, the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, has decided to modify the show's layout, format and registration process.The changes were announced by Tim Hammonds, FMI president and chief executive officer, at the trade organization's Midwinter Executive Conference held here Jan. 15 to 18 at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Attempting to boost attendance for its annual GM/HBC Conference, the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, has decided to modify the show's layout, format and registration process.

The changes were announced by Tim Hammonds, FMI president and chief executive officer, at the trade organization's Midwinter Executive Conference held here Jan. 15 to 18 at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.

Alterations planned for the 1995 general merchandise and health and beauty care conference, which will be held in Philadelphia Oct. 8 to 10, include:

The addition of prescheduled "targeted business reviews," where retailers, exhibitors and suppliers can discuss sales strategies, review past, present and future business or discuss topics covered during conference workshops.

The consolidation of the conference into one massive room. The show floor will hold not only exhibitors, but also the booths for the business reviews and areas for 12 idea workshops and idea exchange luncheons. "There'll be no distractions that take people away from the floor," said Hammonds.

Free registration for retailers and wholesalers through March 31 to encourage early sign-ups. From April 1 through May 31, registration will cost $149 for the first three registrants from a retail or wholesale company, with all subsequent registrants from that company free "to encourage your people to come as a team," Hammonds said. June through August, the sign-up fee is $249 for the first three registrants. On-site fees are $349 for all.

Limitation on the size of exhibitor booths "to take the competition out of booth size and space and pizzazz," Hammonds said.

He added another feature of the 1995 conference will be a "move to informal dress; no ties required."

The show's new format was based on reaction from retailers and manufacturers to previous FMI nonfood conferences and on the meetings of the show's Educational Planning Committee. FMI's 1994 GM/HBC Conference, which was held Sept. 25 to 27 in St. Louis, drew only 1,972 attendees, a decrease from the previous year. Approximately 250 of those were supermarket retailers, FMI reported previously.

Hammonds said the new, looser format of the 1995 conference should broaden its appeal.

"Some retailers don't want appointments; this format allows them not to have appointments. They can simply walk the traditional floor," said Hammonds. "Some retailers will want to do only appointments; they have that option."

Smaller retailers who attend the show will be able to meet with manufacturer executives who don't normally visit their headquarters, he said, and large retailers will get a chance to meet with smaller manufacturers that have a limited sales force. Additionally, manufacturers can save money by opting not to set up a booth and only meet during the targeted business reviews.

"It's a flexible program," said Hammonds, who pointed out the free early registration indicates "making this show successful is not a money issue for FMI," and that FMI is "trying to help the total supermarket industry recapture this important category."

Hammonds emphasized supermarket share in GM/HBC is "eroding and they are important competitve weapons in the marketplace of tomorrow."