To me a great sign of state of our industry (both current and future) is the attitude held by the retailer community. Again this year, for the third year in a row, the Retail Education Workshop at Expo East was sold out!
I missed a good bit of the day due to other commitments, but was able to be there for more than half of it:
The Opening Keynote, presented by Kimberly Stewart, Editorial Director of Functional Ingredients magazine was great! Kimberly set a great tone for the day by connecting the history of the natural products industry to solutions that we offer to many pressing challenges today.
I next was able to step into this workshop for the lunch session. While I was engaged in some pleasant conversation, I was more enjoying the tone of the room - a myriad of enthusiastic voices! People greeting old friends and meeting new ones. I took the fact that many of the sessions after lunch started late as a good sign – everyone was enjoying the camaraderie!
My view of the next two sessions is more than a little biased – I was privileged to present them! While I do happen to think that the presenter did an outstanding job (and that he was quite a good-looking fellow, to boot), the retailers’ response was of note. Firstly, they took notes – a lot of them! Even though they were given a copy of the set of slides that was shown, they all took copious quantities of notes. They asked good, serious, probing questions about how to put the presented material to work in their stores. That was great to see!
During this time, I was able to chat with “local” retailers – those that you would expect to come to the show a “day early” to be a part of the workshop. I also talked with participants from Florida, Colorado and Washington (state) – the fact that we drew folks from so far away was outstanding!
The final session of the day was one without a formal agenda, but one that developed a theme pretty quickly. I was honored to share the front of the room (we left the stage to sit “with the folks) with both Jay Jacobowitz of Retail Insights and Michael Kanter of Cambridge Naturals. These two gentlemen probably have forgotten more about successful retailing than most of us have ever learned.
Each of us took some time to share and comment on what we saw going on, and the mike was left open for any retailer that wanted to share comments, questions or stories. It was a very enriching time! The dominant theme that I heard discussed was that of “building community” – with our customers, our cities and town, our vendors, and our employees.
A strong sign of the community being built was how long all of the retailers stayed after visiting with each other – I walked by the room some time after the session was over – and it was still full of retailers exchanging contact information, stories and ideas!
I saw retailers that have a real understanding of the challenging economic times that we are going through – but they weren’t a scared bunch. They are confident that they are going to survive and thrive and continue to bring health to the world around them!