SAN DIEGO This year’s NACDS Marketplace conference kicked off Saturday morning with Meet the Market, a power session of one-on-one meetings between retailers and small suppliers that, over the years, has evolved into a more efficient and focused system, and serves as one facet of NACDS’ multi-pronged efforts to help smaller manufacturers succeed in today’s challenging market.
“Niche players don’t really know the industry, don’t know the players well enough and don’t have a connection to them to be able to get an appointment on their own,” said Fitz Elder, vice president of member relations and chief member relations officer for NACDS. “It breaks down those barriers and gives them that one-on-one opportunity that they might have a more difficult time orchestrating on their own. It gives them a baseline of value before they even come to the floor.”
Meet the Market, which ran between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, allowed exhibitors to showcase their products to retail buyers in a series of 10-minute presentations the day before the opening of the exhibit hall.
“It is always very important to meet as many suppliers as possible. [Meet the Market] not only allows us to meet one-on-one but to view products with an overview at their [booth],” said Andrew Nielsen, Hy-Vee buyer for general merchandise/health and beauty aids. “New does help drive business, and new does help drive sales.”
Added Bill Neubauer, director of sales and marketing for Out of Africa, a maker of bar and liquid soap, body oils and shower gels, “It is a great opportunity for new suppliers to have a face-to-face with a retailer in hopes they will be enticed enough to come back to the booth.”
Since its debut at NACDS Marketplace five years ago, Meet the Market has evolved into a computer-assisted system that today hosts nearly 10,000 face-to-face meetings among 400 exhibitors and more than 300 retailers representing 80 companies.
“The evolution of Meet the Market [essentially] started with a sticker system to now a computerized system where we are really matching up buyers and sellers, and retailers and buyers, by both categories and what they are purchasing,” said Jim Whitman, senior vice president of member services and programs at NACDS. “Over the evolution of it, these things are getting much more specific for the parties so there is a lot more interaction and opportunity for discussion and business.”
In addition, members of the NACDS advisory board, volunteers and several retailers also review supplier information to most effectively match them with a retailer buyer.
New for this year, said Larry Lotridge, vice president of conference exhibits for NACDS, is a retailer profile that is supplied to exhibitors.
“That has been one of the things we have consistently heard from retailers is the more that we can help educate these new companies, the more productive it is for them. That ties in with the whole Successful Selling, and it also ties in with the advisory board that came forward with the recommendation we implemented on the mentoring program. We expanded that this year,” Lotridge said.
While Meet the Market is undoubtedly a vital component of NACDS Marketplace, it is important to note that it is just one aspect of NACDS’ multifaceted approach to helping niche players succeed. For example, NACDS hosted in February its second Successful Selling conference that was held in conjunction with Walgreens’ “New Vendor Days” program. NACDS also expanded its mentoring program that connects niche players with a mentor.