SHOPA ATTRACTING ATTENDEES FROM TOP 100 CHAINS

DALLAS -- The School & Home Office Products Association's trade show, which takes place here next week, will draw from 60% to 70% of the top 100 supermarket chains, said Steve Jacober, a former publishing executive who was named SHOPA president earlier this year.This statistic demonstrates how SHOPA, based in Dayton, Ohio, has increased its membership of 1,200 into a broad-based organization made

DALLAS -- The School & Home Office Products Association's trade show, which takes place here next week, will draw from 60% to 70% of the top 100 supermarket chains, said Steve Jacober, a former publishing executive who was named SHOPA president earlier this year.

This statistic demonstrates how SHOPA, based in Dayton, Ohio, has increased its membership of 1,200 into a broad-based organization made up partly of alternative retail formats.

"We've come a long way in positioning our product categories at retail. Our efforts reflect what is happening in the marketplace. The makeup of the players has changed and the way products are brought to market has changed," said Jacober.

Retailer buyer attendance in Dallas is expected to be up 20% from last year's 1,800 mark. Jacober attributes this growth to SHOPA's response to industry trends and the realization among retailers that SHOPA categories are productive and profitable.

In six short years the SHOPA trade event has evolved beyond being just the back-to-school show, he said.

This year's show, Nov. 14 to 16, will feature 526 companies exhibiting in 21 categories, including computer accessories and software, home/office supplies, equipment, furniture and office storage besides the regular back-to-school lineup.

Consumer trends have spawned the development of new categories outside the back-to-school arena, Jacober pointed out.

Among these trends are:

The baby boomlet is driving development of education-related products, games and crafts for use at home. "We know the baby boomers are very sophisticated consumers and parents. They want to provide their children with learning opportunities," said Jacober.

The downsizing of corporate America has given rise to the home-office market.

Time-pressed consumers are seeking organizational tools to help them better manage their lives and manufacturers have responded to this need with organizational planners and calendars.

Sales of licensed fashion goods continue up due to the consumer's need to use these products as a form of self- expression and individuality.

"These trends are forcing development of new and innovative products to better suit the needs of the consumer. It is providing opportunities for retailers and fueling the growth of SHOPA categories," said Jacober.

These trends are also moving the industry into a year-round business rather than just a back-to-school seasonal selling event.

Jacober said the challenge for the grocery channel is to recognize these trends and break out of the traditional mode as the food industry has done with prepared meals. "The prepared food category is really changing the way supermarkets are marketing to the consumer. Our product categories also can revitalize general merchandise."

He mentioned supermarkets' high shopper frequency rate as a big advantage over competing formats. "What better statement could the supermarket industry make than that they are feeding the family and children's minds through school products? Through the home office business, they are satisfying the needs of the consumer, who shops their stores about 1.7 times a week," said Jacober.

The association has responded to changes in the marketplace by developing special member services. Earlier this year, SHOPA announced a new electronic library database through a partnership with 1-800-DATABASE, Norcross, Ga., in which product information, including use of product images for planograms, is accessed and exchanged. The library will eventually contain product information on all 21 SHOPA categories.

Although he declined to name the retailer, Jacober said that one leading supermarket chain is actively supporting the database project.

The association will again sponsor an educational conference, July 20 to 22, 1997 at the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tenn. At the conference, entitled "Learning Curve," new consumer research will be presented identifying trends driving the market.