Q&A: GMDC|Retail Tomorrow's Spear highlights slate of 2021 virtual events

Patrick Spear, president of GMDC|Retail Tomorrow, spoke with Drug Store News about the programs that the trade organization has in store for this year.
David Salazar
Managing Editor
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Patrick Spear, president of GMDC|Retail Tomorrow is looking forward to the association’s upcoming events. Here is what he has to say about what’s happening later this year.

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Drug Store News: What’s happening at GMDC|Retail Tomorrow these days?    
Patrick Spear:
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year was one of the most disruptive years anyone has ever experienced, and like many industries, the retail industry was greatly impacted.

Much like other trade associations, we quickly realized we would be unable to host our in-person General Merchandise Conference and Selfcare Summit events in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. So we quickly pivoted, moving our GM Conference to the fall alongside our Selfcare Summit and ultimately holding the two events virtually over the course of three weeks in October. The shift from in-person to virtual events helped our members to conduct business safely, effectively and efficiently despite the difficulties to do so because of COVID-19.

DSN: Tell us about the GMDC|Retail Tomorrow virtual event series. How does it work?PS: Following the success of our first-ever virtual GM Conference and Selfcare Summit events last fall, and based on member feedback, we decided to host a series of virtual events in 2021 aimed at enhancing business connectivity for members as the industry continues to navigate the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Focused on GM, self-care, housewares and holiday seasonal categories and scheduled over several weeks, event attendees will have the flexibility to schedule strategic and discovery meetings throughout the year to more frequently engage with current and potential trading partners.

  • April 6 to 23: Spring GM, Selfcare and Housewares Strategic Executive Connection Meetings, in partnership with the International Housewares Association;

  • June 2 to 11: Summer GM and Selfcare Product Discovery Sessions (Buyer’s Choice);

  • Sept. 14 to 23: Fall GM and Selfcare SEC Meetings; and

  • Oct. 13 to 14: Holiday Seasonal Strategic and Discovery Sessions.

We’re also launching a five-part virtual Startup Mic-Drop series that will run throughout the year. Part of our Retail Tomorrow platform, the program will focus on retail tech and CPG start-ups, with a panel of industry executives judging the pitches. At our Mic-Drop Showdown finale in December, we’ll award two $10,000 prizes to the series winners.

Since our founding more than 50 years ago, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has built unique capabilities to facilitate strategic and meaningful one-to-one connections.

DSN: Besides COVID-19, what influenced GMDC|Retail Tomorrow to move in this direction?
Member feedback is really what drove our decision to offer these more frequent, targeted events in 2021. Coming out of our virtual GM and Selfcare events in 2020, we gathered feedback from and listened to our members on what worked well during our virtual events and where we could improve. We quickly discovered that more frequent, category-specific events better position our members to conduct business and grow in the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.

DSN: How does it benefit retailers?
The nature of how we connect and conduct business is completely changed. Our events will look and feel different in 2021, but they will continue to deliver the same benefits expected by our members, only more frequently.

In April, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has partnered with IHA to offer our respective members the opportunity to connect and uniquely collaborate with members from each association, enabling our nonfood retailers and wholesalers to meet with IHA supplier members.

DSN: How does it benefit suppliers?
Since our founding more than 50 years ago, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow has built unique capabilities to facilitate strategic and meaningful one-to-one connections. In 2021, buyers and sellers will indicate their interest in meeting by way of a ranking system. In advance of the events, buyers will express high/some/low/no interest, while sellers will qualify meetings with a yes/no selection. From there, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow will build all meeting schedules to accommodate participants’ schedules and availability.

Different than in years past, participating companies are not limited in the number of colleagues they’re able to bring to each meeting. And there is no registration cost for the events. Suppliers will simply pay for the meetings they accept.

DSN: GMDC|Retail Tomorrow is holding a new holiday season event. Tell us about this. PS: In October, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow will, for the first time, host a holiday and season-specific event, offering strategic and discovery meetings to buyers and sellers. We’ll have more information to share in the coming months. d