At GMDC|Retail Tomorrow, the best is yet to come

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At GMDC|Retail Tomorrow, the best is yet to come

By Patrick Spear, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow - 08/19/2020

The retail industry has experienced its fair share of innovation over the past 50 years, and disruption has accelerated in recent years as retailers prioritize evolving consumer needs. GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has been at the forefront of that innovation as a trusted leader and adviser to some of the world’s largest retailers, equipping them with resources, data and consumer-focused insights that lead to sustainable and profitable growth in the face of industry disruption and the evolving consumer.

As GMDC|Retail Tomorrow celebrates its 50th anniversary, we reflect on the past and look forward to innovating for the future. 

Honoring the Past
Founded in 1970 by Fran Willmes of Spartan Stores and purchasing executives from five general merchandise wholesale companies, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has evolved into the industry authority in the general merchandise and health, beauty and wellness arenas. Out of the growing demand for nonfood items in grocery stores came connection and innovation. 

In 1971, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow hosted its inaugural GMDC Marketing Conference to foster industry collaboration and nonfoods product discovery. Since its inception, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has created a leading conference lineup, including the current GM Conference and Selfcare Summit, formerly HBW Conference, events.

In its early years, the association established a strong presence with its conferences and employed a traditional booth format like many other organizations. Seizing the opportunity to create a more effective solution for conferencing and networking, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow established a tabletop format, employing brief, prescheduled “touchpoint” meetings. The association assimilated the required resources, identified ways to implement them, and ultimately introduced this approach to the marketplace.

While competing events now use a similar format, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow pioneered this speed networking approach, disrupting the traditional booth format that was ubiquitous during the time the association came into existence. Through the introduction and refinement of the tabletop-based speed networking appointment format, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has been recognized for introducing the conference format nearly 30 years prior to the appearance of the “speed dating” model to which the tabletop meetings are frequently compared.

GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has demonstrated business agility alongside changing consumer demands and the fast-evolving retail landscape. In 1987, the association admitted direct-buying supermarket chains to its membership, and by 1992, the organization launched its Educational Foundation (later rebranded to the Education Leadership Council), designed to provide and publish proprietary insights, and expanded membership to include service merchandisers, non-direct-buying supermarket chains and club stores.

Since the inclusion within its membership of all mass-market wholesale and retail channels in 1999, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has grown to represent more than 125,000 retail outlets worldwide responsible for $500 billion in nonfood sales.

Amid the e-commerce boom, the association launched its industry innovation initiative, Retail Tomorrow in 2017. Dedicated to enhancing a seamless shopper experience in retail, this initiative inspired a new brand — GMDC|Retail Tomorrow — and an enhanced focus for the association.

Innovating for the Future
Today, the digital age has disrupted the status quo and empowered consumers, providing personalized shopping options. Now more than ever, it’s imperative for brands and stores to work together to create an experience that consumers can’t get anywhere else. As the retail landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, brands must maintain that experience for their customer and stay one step ahead. 

In times of economic or business disruption, such as the coronavirus pandemic that has upended the status quo for retailers everywhere, it’s critical to adapt quickly, maintain partnerships, look forward to the future, and adopt technologies that enhance the shopper experience. Following the global pandemic, many retailers have faced unprecedented hurdles, yet are now looking to innovative and valuable solutions to incorporate into business operations.

It is critical that the retail industry comes together to support one another and meet their associates, vendors and customers where they need it most. During this time and in the coming years, the priority for retailers must be keeping the health and safety of its constituents and customers top of mind. Many have made or will make adjustments to business models, marketing plans, upcoming events and more as they adapt to a new working environment. 

Technology and the digital marketplace in particular will usher the industry into a new, yet promising reality. With organizations leaning on video conferencing solutions in lieu of in-person meetings, and retailers leveraging online solutions to reach customers, technology will play a prominent role in retail. 

In light of this new landscape, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow encourages its members to utilize its member directory as a means of reaching out to new partners and to further their businesses beyond this challenging time via its GMDC*Connect year-round video conferencing service. Discovering uncommon approaches to creating and nurturing partnerships will be the key to helping propel the industry forward. 

Further adapting to the new normal and ensuring member needs are met, we have co-located our 2020 GM Conference and Selfcare Summit events in the fall to help guide member retailers and suppliers through the new business landscape. The co-located events are a prelude to bringing the industry together again in a conference setting where organizations can leverage and benefit from the strength of all nonfood executives across retail and supply organizations. With many of the ripple effects of COVID-19 still unknown, the aligned 2020 GM Conference and Selfcare Summit events will provide industry resources for navigating the lasting impacts of this still-unfolding situation.

While it is important that companies work quickly to respond to moments of business disruption with strategic reactionary solutions, it is equally important to provide proactive solutions and offer resources for stakeholders. GMDC|Retail Tomorrow offers various ways to keep businesses connected, protected and diversified with hundreds of insights, including actionable data and proprietary research provided through our interactive Selfcare Roadmap. With the industry experiencing a fundamental shift in how consumers engage with the healthcare system and the self-care-focused products they are seeking to buy, our studies and tools can be relied upon as resources for businesses and consumers alike.

Looking Ahead
As we celebrate our 50th anniversary and look forward to the next 50 years, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow remains at the forefront of helping retail stakeholders act on current and future-facing consumer expectations. 

While no one can predict where the next 50 years will take the retail industry, the manner in which the industry has rapidly responded to current circumstances portends a future that holds much promise. With collaboration, innovation, and the introduction of new solutions and technologies, retailers will be poised to emerge from this time more resilient than ever.

Patrick Spear is the president and CEO of GMDC|Retail Tomorrow. 

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