Inside This Issue - Opinion
GMDC poised to make impact
January 24th, 2011
by David Pinto, Editor
Whatever its initials really mean, GMDC, the supermarket-based, general merchandise-oriented trade group headquartered in Colorado Springs, is emerging as a particularly relevant and immensely valuable retail association.
GMDC succeeds by bringing together a dedicated, involved and cohesive retailer and wholesaler membership, a narrow but deep merchandising and marketing emphasis, a surprisingly viable education and research component committed to generating original research, and a staff that, while lean, combines experience, comprehension and commitment to a degree seldom encountered in the retail association community.
To be sure, GMDC, despite having just concluded its 40th anniversary, is still very much a work in progress. But 2011 shows every early indication of being the start of a watershed decade for the organization, a time during which many of its key initiatives will come of age.
The association’s core activities turn on two broad product groups: general merchandise and health and beauty care, which the organization has appropriately renamed health, beauty and wellness (HBW). Each of the two product groupings is the focus of an annual marketing conference. The general merchandise event is held each June, the HBW conference every September. Each is a four-day affair that productively combines retailer-supplier one-on-one sessions, executive conferences, business roundtables and workshops, individual top-to-top meetings, and store tours with ample evening social opportunities.
Among the reasons these conferences work to the benefit of both GMDC’s retailer/wholesaler and supplier members — and, by all accounts, they are indeed productive — is that the organization, though largely funded and influenced by its supplier members, is retailer driven. So it is that the association’s retail and wholesaler members head its various committees, largely determine meeting agendas, program business sessions and even have the leverage to mandate that all retailer attendees at the organization’s trade shows visit the “showcase” exhibit that displays and highlights new and significant products and merchandising vehicles that supplier members have chosen, for a fee, to expose to the retailers and wholesalers in attendance.
These events, however, are merely the public face of the organization. Behind the scenes is a group of retailers, wholesalers and suppliers committed to the association’s objectives — and its success. It is a level of commitment few retail associations can match. To that end, the organization’s activities are managed by five separate but interactive executive groups, its retailer-dominated board of directors (and, within that group, its executive committee) and four separate advisory boards that plan the marketing conferences, oversee educational and research initiatives, and supervise and coordinate membership activities.
Perhaps the most impressive GMDC initiative is the organization’s commitment to providing original research around subjects of particular interest to its membership. To that end, the organization recently published the results of an original research project conducted around health and wellness, with an emphasis on determining how health and wellness issues have altered consumer perceptions and purchases of the products they buy and use.
Of course, much of what GMDC does throughout the year is trade association boilerplate: convening board and committee meetings, producing a variety of educational and communications memoranda, offering its membership access to its web site. But even here, the organization tends to provide more than the minimum — sometimes significantly more. Among the information GMDC either generates or disseminates: product sourcing guides, category sales recaps by trade class and timely product recall bulletins. As an example, GMDC provides its members with current sales data for some 90 general merchandise categories, some of it available from no other source.
Indeed, the organization faces the same challenges common to all retail trade organizations, primary among them the difficulty in engaging senior executives on the retailer side of its membership rolls and the ongoing struggle to attract new retail members, especially among the nation’s drug chains, specialty retailers and mass merchants. But those retail buyers and merchants who have made GMDC a part of their association agenda are involved and committed to a degree seldom encountered in the association firmament, to the point where many rely on GMDC to provide insight, guidance, knowledge, information and assistance to help them more effectively understand and manage general merchandise and health, beauty and wellness, three broad product groupings that are emerging as increasingly important segments of the retail merchandise assortment.
Most recently, GMDC has broadened its commitment to health and wellness by adding a pharmacy component to its range of HBW activities, an addition that complements both the organization’s emphasis on educating its membership about health and wellness and the consumer’s (and retailer’s) growing thirst for knowledge about the components of a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, GMDC offers its retailer and wholesaler membership a supplier component that is aware of the needs of that membership and involved in the issues that most concern it.
As a package then, the targeted services that GMDC offers its members, and its efficiency, timeliness and diligence in delivering those services, combine to make this retail trade association perfectly positioned to address those product segments and merchandising and marketing issues it believes will emerge, in this decade as among the more significant for mass retailers. In doing so, GMDC has become more significant as well.