GC Buying Group’s 14th annual Start the Year Member Conference and Vendor Showcase drew “record-high numbers” for the two-day event, held Jan. 11 and 12 at AmericasMart during the International Gift and Home Furnishings Show in Atlanta.
The exclusive member meeting for the Dallas-based buying group included a full day of education and idea sharing for stores on Jan. 11. The meeting kicked off with open discussion topics, where stores shared personal experiences regarding selected topics led by Ben Salmon, owner of Kitchen a la Mode in South Orange, N.J.
“Start the Year helps us find winning trends and products by hearing over 200 independent stores’ top items. It creates our hit list of new vendors to visit the following day,” said Laura Havlek, owner of Sign of the Bear in Sonoma, Calif.
Guest speaker Bobby Griggs, VP of Hammer Stahl, captivated the audience with his thought-provoking points about “Changing Retail and Consumers.” RMSA’s Paul Erickson offered easily applied advice on “Managing Your Inventory.”
“All of the speakers gave me information and insight to bring back to my store; I felt affirmed at one point that I'm actually stocking my store correctly … I will definitely be back,” said Mary Behrens, owner of Kitchen Outfitters in Crystal Lake, Ill.
Pictured right:Wolf Gourmet National Sales Manager Tom Lawler (left) and Sales Manager Richard Parker (center) demonstrate the Countertop Oven to GC store member Beth Champagne from The Kitchenary at Heymann’s in Lafayette, La.
Peer to Peer Advice
Store Members also heard from peers on GC services that have been incorporated and proved successful for engaging customers. Angela Skogen, owner of Cooks on Main in Williston, N.D., spoke on the benefits of implementing the GC Catalog; Sharon Landis, Owner of Zest! in Lititz, Pa., shared with members some unique ways to utilize the GC eNewsletter; and Susan Dolinar, Owner of Nibblins in Winchester, Va., highlighted her incredible store transformation thanks to GC’s Refresh Program.
After a full day of learning and exchanging retail best practices, Store and Vendor Members gathered at Atlanta’s Capital City Club for a cocktail party hosted by GC Buying Group.
Day two featured the Vendor Showcase, a private tradeshow for GC members, that allows stores to view and demo products, learn about new merchandise, communicate specific needs, take advantage of exclusive special offers and network with vendors. “[GC] hit a home run with this year’s Vendor Showcase, now [GC’s] biggest issue is to top it again next year,” said Dick Smith, sales manager of Fletchers’ Mill, known for its Maine-made/Made in the USA spice mills.
Vendors are glad to for the opportunity to reconnect with their customers face-to-face.
“The GC event is an effective, efficient venue to meet specialty independent retailers with the ability to highlight best sellers from the holiday season and to introduce new products. It offers extraordinary business as well as personal opportunity to connect with our customers and start the year in a very positive fashion. Uplifting for all involved,” said Bill Reibl, President & CEO, Fusion Brands.
The GC team is now preparing for Chicago’s International Home and Housewares show in March, where the group hosts a private meeting to set independent stores up for buying success when tackling the large show. GC’s Summer School event will take place during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market in July. “Convenient and informative, this year’s GC Start the Year Member Conference was invaluable! I can not wait for GC’s Summer School in July,” said Sandy Barrios, Owner of Bazaar in Collierville, Tenn.