By  on June 22, 2007

NEW YORK — Small is the new big at this weekend's National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace Meeting, which kicks off Sunday, June 23 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Beauty retailers heading to the show — the largest gathering of mass suppliers and buyers in the industry — said they'll take the opportunity to meet with vendors they need to get to know better.

There should be plenty of opportunity for that with the number of exhibitors expected. According to the NACDS Web site, the meeting represents $500 billion in annual buying power with more than 130,000 retail outlets represented. There are more than 700 manufacturers in 11 primary product categories who'll have more than 10,000 face-to-face meetings.

"Our goal is to meet people new to the market, the niche players. We are a perfect match for these guys and we can help our members hear about these companies and get their information out in the market," said Jim Devine, who heads up the Chain Drug Marketing Consortium, a network of drug chains including many regional powers. He added that his buyers will work the Meet the Market appointments looking for product news to send to members, including samples.

This will be the first time CDMC attends Meet the Market, a feature added several years ago to give retailers and manufacturers an added opportunity to get together — away from the cacophony of the massive trade show floor. The Meet the Market appointments are held on Saturday and Sunday. New this year is that several of the Meet the Market appointments must also be held on the floor, an effort to boost traffic there. Before Meet the Market was added, some small suppliers complained they got overlooked on the trade floor.

Ultimately, the goal of attendees is to find something that might just click with a particular retail store. Walgreens' Steven Lubin and his team from Puerto Rico want to see vendors who are not able to travel to see Walgreens' Puerto Rico stores firsthand. Another buyer said she is looking for companies who have not been to her headquarters to see if they are a fit for her stores. With the industry polarized between the big three powers (CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens) and the remaining chains, vendors pump their travel dollars into the big guys, making this meeting more important than ever for small chains and small suppliers.For some, meeting with smaller companies is just the reality of the show. Rite Aid's Judy Wray noted that some major firms are not exhibiting this year, opening the schedule for appointments with smaller firms.

Indeed, as an example, Elizabeth Arden, Coty and Dana were not on the schedule at press time to be at the show. However, there are at least 20 new suppliers in beauty alone. Although retailers said they want new, they are also faced with balancing large suppliers who spend big to draw shoppers into their stores with smaller companies who can only rely on unique items to appeal to shoppers at the point of sale.

Retailers also said they'll use Marketplace to uncover new ways to improve the beauty shopping experience. "I am looking for ways to simplify the buying and shopping experience, yet still increasing sales by making the department leaner and more productive," said one buyer. That topic will also be discussed in one of several breakout educational sessions. That session is called "Bringing Clarity to Channel Choice — Understanding the Importance of Variety, Value and Convenience."

The concept of editing the beauty selection is gaining steam in the mass market as retailers look to tailor departments for their specific customer base. Other sessions at Marketplace include how to improve the new product launch process and "The State of Beauty: An Inside Look for In Style."

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