Gourmet Catalog & Buying Group will celebrate its 35th anniversary with its annual Start of the Year conference. The two-day event will be held during the International Gift + Home Furnishings Market, held at AmericasMart Atlanta, from Jan. 13 to 14. This year, the group anticipates that more than 225 people will attend the annual event.
Claudia Conard, communications and brand specialist coordinator for Gourmet Catalog, said the buying group is eager to share updates with its members and this year, the conference will focus on engaging with the consumer, navigating retail competition, as well as provide an opportunity for members to brainstorm and swap business strategies.
The conference will kick off on Wednesday, the 13th, with a breakfast and welcome address from Gourmet Catalog & Buying Group founder and president, Janis Johnson. Following, store members are welcome to participate in open mic discussions where they can share their personal experiences on various topics and opinions including best products and vendors for independents, best selling categories and strategies for adding new categories.
“At our conference, attendees really benefit when the store members can learn from one another. We have such a strong network of stores, the networking between vendors and stores and the networking among stores themselves, is pretty powerful,” said Conard. “We also solicit feedback from them so we can be providing the best service. Overall, we strive for the conference to be a strong information source for all.”
One of the highlights of the day, said Conard, will be the unveiling of all of the new program updates and services that Gourmet Catalog is planning to roll out this year. “As this is our 35th anniversary, we are trying to do our best to push further and add new services, while incorporating as much of the member feedback as possible,” she said.
The event’s first speaker will be Bobby Griggs, vp, Hammer Stahl, who will lead a discussion titled “Connecting with the Consumer.” Then, following lunch, Bob Phipps, known as The Retail Doctor, will discuss techniques on how to compete in today’s market. The rest of the afternoon will consist of additional open discussions and a presentation by store member Suzanne Kipfer, owner of Simple Tidings and Kitchen. She will focus on store merchandising, marketing displays around holidays and events and setting drive periods. Store members will then be invited to discuss staffing strategies, such as full-time versus part- time employees, as well as knowledge, experience and training.
On Thursday, the buying group will host its annual vendor showcase which features product previews, and for the first time this year, will include a new member market tour. “The tour is sort of like a fast track to the show. New members who have not been to the show or to AmericasMart are invited to follow us and we will make brief introductions at each vendor booth. This tour is good for someone new or someone who needs to prioritize their time spent at the show,” Conard explained. ￼￼