PAVILION LOOKS SOLID FOR 1996

CHICAGO -- The Warehousing & Distribution pavilion that debuted at the Food Marketing Institute show here this month will probably return next year.The pavilion, a 5,800-square-foot area, contained 15 company booths offering products and services involved in cross-docking, inventory control systems and other logistics and product handling initiatives.A final decision to include the pavilion at the

CHICAGO -- The Warehousing & Distribution pavilion that debuted at the Food Marketing Institute show here this month will probably return next year.

The pavilion, a 5,800-square-foot area, contained 15 company booths offering products and services involved in cross-docking, inventory control systems and other logistics and product handling initiatives.

A final decision to include the pavilion at the 1996 show has not yet been made, but "at this point, all indications are 'yes,' " said an FMI spokeswoman.

Previous FMI specialty pavilions have been spun off as their own shows, such as FMI MarkeTechnics, which originated as a technology pavilion, and FMI GM/HBC, which started as a pavilion for general merchandise and health and beauty care.

However, FMI officials said no such plans are imminent for the Warehousing & Distribution pavilion.

"As far as creating a new show, we wouldn't know. It's highly speculative to make a decision like that at this point," said Sherrie Rosenblatt, FMI manager of media relations.

"The pavilion gave us the opportunity to bring attention to a category that is very important, and the feedback we are getting right now is pretty positive," she said.

Joe Ciliono, national sales executive-grocery industry specialist at Ryder Commercial Leasing & Services, Westchester, Pa., told SN that exhibiting within the special area would help draw key distribution decision-makers to his booth, the largest in the pavilion.

"When they come through here, they're thinking warehousing and distribution," he told SN. "Somebody's not going to hand them a ham sandwich."

Not all pavilion exhibitors agreed. By contrast, it's precisely that lack of culinary cajolery that hurt foot traffic in the pavilion, according to Brian Smith, director of development at the Facility Group, Atlanta.

"If you come to this end of the facility, you don't get the residual traffic" generated by booths offering food freebies, he said.

"This has been a great show for us in the past," Smith acknowledged, "but we've always been fortunate to be based near booths like Klondike or Ben & Jerry's." Exhibiting in the pavilion this year "was not a matter of choice," he added.

Another exhibitor in the warehousing and distribution pavilion, Lewisystems, Watertown, Wis., said the company had arranged to exhibit in the pavilion at next year's show.

"We did reasonably OK. We didn't set the world on fire but we picked up 78 [sales] leads," said Jack Stritch, national sales manager of food distribution.

Visitors to the company booth didn't seem to be specifically drawn by the pavilion, however, he added. "I think they just wandered by."

Another vendor who offers distribution products and services but opted against exhibiting in the pavilion said he'll watch to see how well the area is received.

"I think it's a good thing they're doing but this conference typically is not where you sell this stuff. It's an awareness builder. The place to sell is at the Joint Food Industry Productivity Conference."