RETAILERS SEEK TO STRENGTHEN DEALS AT EXCLUSIVELY HBA

CHICAGO -- Supermarket retailers heading to the Exclusively HBA trade show, which runs this week from March 23 to 25, expect to improve and strengthen their relationships with manufacturers' top-level management.Exclusively HBA's food retailer preregistration is up 3% from last year, despite the event coming just six months after last year's show, according to Jay Spaulding, show principal.Spaulding

CHICAGO -- Supermarket retailers heading to the Exclusively HBA trade show, which runs this week from March 23 to 25, expect to improve and strengthen their relationships with manufacturers' top-level management.

Exclusively HBA's food retailer preregistration is up 3% from last year, despite the event coming just six months after last year's show, according to Jay Spaulding, show principal.

Spaulding said with the show moved from September to March, retailers can make their discussions more "action-oriented" because year-end sales results have already been tallied.

Most retailers agreed they are not nearly as concerned with seeing new products as they are with hammering out better deals with manufacturers and improving the service provided to their chain.

"I'd like to see new products and to make contacts. Last year, I remember seeing one manufacturer that had just put us on telemarketing, and I didn't particularly care for it. They've since taken us off telemarketing," said Fulton Royal, HBA category manager for Jitney Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss.

"We generally don't go to a show like this to get exposure to new products. We're concerned with vendor contacts at the right level," said David Bowne, corporate director of general merchandise for Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis.

Even one manufacturer agreed with the retailers' impressions.

"You're not going to that show to find out what Gillette is selling because, hopefully, you already know with plenty of lead time," said Scott Roberts, vice president of business relations for Gillette and a member of the Exclusively HBA steering committee.

"What you do have an opportunity to do is stop in and address an issue, get a little focus on it and at least set it up for some follow-up because you do have the national guys there," he added.

"We're looking for more promotional opportunities. We need to get in on promotions, promotional monies. New products, those are minor," agreed one buyer for a Southeastern chain.

But others who attended last year's show said they would not attend this year for a variety of reasons.

"It's too close to last year. We didn't even give it any consideration at all," said one Midwestern HBC buyer who wished to remain anonymous.

Another buyer from a large New England chain said he is not attending the show because he felt previous shows were weak and catered to Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.

Roberts defended the show: "One of the reasons [it was considered a mass merchandisers' show] was it came just out in front of the fall GM/HBC FMI show."