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Retailers seek inspiration at FMI Connect

Retailers seek inspiration at FMI Connect

Retailers came to FMI Connect with many different goals in mind, ranging from learning about technology to finding fresh merchandising ideas to attending education sessions, show attendees told SN.

Attendees also visited co-located shows, including United Fresh and Florticulture Expo, to explore trends and opportunities in those categories. 

Bill Martin, HBC category manager for Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan., came to FMI Connect looking for health and beauty care products that could be a good fit for AWG.

“I attended the CBX [Connect Business Exchange] sessions to meet with certain suppliers — people that have products similar to and different from the ones we already carry, and I intend to follow up with them to see if we want to change any items in the HBC assortment we have,” said Martin.

Retailers came to FMI Connect for many reasons.
Retailers came to FMI Connect for many reasons.

Candy East, floral category manager at Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., also was looking for product inspiration.

“I’m here to get new ideas for products and displays. We’re looking to cater to shoppers who increasingly are buying flowers for home décor,” she said.

By Tuesday evening, Kroger Co. floral buyer Leshaun Smedley had already made progress on his goals of finding new, seasonal products.

“I’ve already learned about a number of trends, including targeting Millennials by using neons and other vibrant colors in the floral department,” said Smedley, who particularly liked an “artisan garden rose” he saw.


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Another show attendee, Seth Wertz, a ShopRite store manager at Wakefern Food Corp. in New Jersey, also was particularly eager to find insights on how to adapt to changing consumers, especially Millennials. Wertz told SN he was “looking for something new to manage the future and changing trends.”

Other showgoers came to Chicago with technology on the mind.

Heather Ackels, technology manager at Kroger Co., Cincinnati, said the new technology innovations that are on the show floor, such as energy-efficient cooling systems, have been exciting to see. “I’ve seen new forms of technology brought to retail that we haven’t seen in the past. For instance, I liked the cordless floor dryer [a battery-operated yellow ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ cone that blows air from the bottom to dry a floor], which decreases floor-drying time. That’s ingenious.”

The show floor had something for everyone, and then some.
The show floor had something for everyone, and then some.

Brian Hayes, a store director for B&R Stores, an 18-unit operation based in Lincoln, Neb., also said he was interested in technology and fixtures at the show. “Independents need affordable technology, and there is affordable technology here,” he said. Hayes manages a Super Saver price impact unit for B&R, which also operates conventional stores. Hayes was also seeking new insights on fresh foods. “Even though we’re in the heartland, where there’s a big emphasis on steak and potatoes, we are getting more involved in items such as fresh signature salads,” he said. “We’re also doing fresh sushi and gelato.”

Hayes hadn’t been to FMI’s annual event in a number of years, and the driver for him this year was competing as a finalist in the Store Manager Awards. He was ultimately awarded the grand prize.


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Ken Kuschei, director of consumer insights for Longo’s, Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, set his sights high. “I’m looking for something that will blow me away and change the way I think about things — disruptive things, a system or product I see that, when I sit back and look at it, I say, we haven’t considered that in our vision of the future and we need to or else we could be going down [some day].”

In addition to position-specific goals, many retailers come to FMI Connect to talk with their peers.

Chuck Sullins, print shop manager for K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said his goal at FMI Connect is “to foster communication with other folks here — to mingle with them and get their ideas and visions of what the future holds for the industry."

This story has been updated to include a mention about co-located shows in Chicago. 

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