FMI Pharmacy Conference to Continue Co-Location

With the strong support of its members, the annual Pharmacy Conference of the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., will again co-locate with the main FMI Show next year when it moves to Las Vegas, said Laurie Gethin, FMI's senior manager, pharmacy services. This month was the second time the two events were co-located and retailer/wholesaler attendance was up slightly from last year's

CHICAGO — With the strong support of its members, the annual Pharmacy Conference of the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., will again co-locate with the main FMI Show next year when it moves to Las Vegas, said Laurie Gethin, FMI's senior manager, pharmacy services.

This month was the second time the two events were co-located and retailer/wholesaler attendance was up slightly from last year's standalone conference in Miami, Gethin reported. The pharmacy services committee board voted nearly unanimously to continue the co-location next year, when the FMI Show will include an exhibit area, but is undecided on what it will do in 2009 when FMI has scheduled an education-only event, she said.

“The supermarket pharmacy executives see the value of trying to work across the aisle, build bridges and develop synergies with the food and nonfood sides of the store on behalf of the ever-more-demanding consumer,” Gethin said. Meanwhile, the pharmacy group held some events away from the main show to maintain a sense of “intimacy” and connectedness, she said.

Retailers polled by SN during the event saw multiple benefits in co-location.

“As an industry, we are talking about wellness and nutrition,” said John Fegan, senior vice president, pharmacy, Ahold USA, Quincy, Mass. “We are also talking about the impact of the pharmacy on the grocery environment, and the impact of grocery on pharmacy. This co-located format brings it all together,” he said.

“Co-location keeps us top-of-mind with all of the different departments in the grocery store,” said Curtis Hartin, senior director of pharmacy, Bi-Lo, Greenville, S.C. “It reminds the grocery industry that we are an integral part of, and not a separate entity from, the supermarket.”

A frequently mentioned benefit of co-location is the opportunity to interact with other executives from the chain, while viewing products and services that they would not see in separate shows. Retailers confirmed that this did happen.

Donald Clark, vice president, pharmacy operations, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said he is a “fan” of co-location. “It works for us. The two times we've done it, I've been able to spend more time with people in my organization talking about pharmacy that I could if we weren't co-located,” he said.

During the event, Clark met with a team of executives from his company to discuss what they saw at the show. “That opportunity doesn't exist if you have separate conferences. Some of the things we are seeing on the show floor are things that wouldn't be at a typical pharmacy conference,” he said.

“There are some folks from our IT department who are here and we've walked around together,” noted John Beckner, director, pharmacy and health services, Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va.

“Putting the two shows together is a necessity,” said Dan Milovich, director, pharmacy operations, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz. “There are so many opportunities for us as a company to be together and go through the show together. Also, the pharmacy is constantly trying to integrate into the supermarket and we need to know more about what is going on out front.”

Representing the Food Institute, Elmwood Park, N.J., Roy White, vice president, sales, said that if pharmacy executives and others from their companies worked the show together, it could be an “eye-opener” for everybody. “Pharmacy stands for health. A lot of other sections of the store stand for health too, such as produce. If top management can see it directly for themselves, it would then be possible to inaugurate a lot of programs that integrate pharmacy and healthy products throughout the entire store into a single selling message to their consuming public,” he said.

Michele Snider, senior director of pharmacy, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., said the increased retailer attendance was probably attributable to the combined events. “I known there are more retailers here and that may be because of the co-location with the big show,” she said.

Each time the two events co-locate, the overall effort improves, Beckner said. “Overall, this one was an improvement over 2004 and I'm sure there are some things we can do to improve for next year.”