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Opinions on PLMA's new Sky Hall
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Exhibitors and attendees of PLMA’s 2012 Private Label Trade Show may have found themselves looking upward for inspiration this year: Upstairs to the new Sky Hall exhibit area, that is.
PLMA added the Sky Hall for the first time this year to open up more space for exhibitors at its ever-growing trade show. According to the PLMA, the Sky Hall heralds the biggest change to come to the annual show in years. This extra space reflects recent gains in the private label industry as well as increasing diversification and expansion via acquisitions by a number of store brands suppliers.
Major exhibitors such as Ralcorp Food Group, Conagra Store Brands, Clement Pappas & Co. and Tetrapak, who long held preferred booth locations on the show floor, took part in the expansion to Sky Hall and debuted expanded booths this year.
PLMA Executive Education had a booth in the new Sky Hall, providing information on the St. Joe’s program. PLMA’s Weekend with St. Joe’s, which typically takes place the Saturday and Sunday before the show, offers seminars and workshops on the latest private label trends for sales and marketing professionals who want to learn seriously about the industry.
Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) had a booth this year, which could be found skyward as well. The non-profit professional development organization debuted at the show.
PLBuyer hit the show floor to get the exhibitor’s reactions.
John Tolman, director of national sales, B and D Foods, told PLBuyer his company has done the PLMA Show for three years and said “this year upstairs has been better than the last two years combined.”
“The people who want to find you, find you,” said Lee Masoud, vice president Private Label, Mondiv.
“It’s the quality of conversations, not quantity,” agreed Daniel Fox, director of sales, Nielsen Massey.
Masoud enjoyed the larger space, upgrading from its usual 10- by 20-foot booth to a 60- by 40-foot booth. Masoud said Mondiv enjoyed being together under one umbrella with Clement Pappas & Co. and Arista Wines Inc., all of whom are divisions within Lassonde Industries Inc. This larger space allowed the companies to be together.
Some exhibitors agreed that Monday was better than Tuesday for traffic, but show veterans said this is usually the case no matter where you are on the floor.
Lori Needham, sales and marketing coordinator, Better Baked Foods Inc., told PLB the logistics upstairs were great for her.
- Better Baked deals with frozen products, and getting products to the booth was a whole lot easier, she said.
- She explained that downstairs has one central place, so exhibitors have to sometimes wait in long lines.
- Because the upstairs site was different than the main floor system, she found it much better to get products to her booth.
Reviews from first time exhibitors, however, were mixed. Albert L. “Bud” Cason, chairman & chief executive officer, Bud’s Best Cookies, said Sky Hall had not been great from them. A first time exhibitor, Cason told PLB he didn’t know what to request and would ask for a downstairs placement next year.
Of the foot traffic, Cason said “we just get a few stragglers up here.” However, they did see the people who knew where to find them.
“Even though we’re up here, it’s still been worth the investment,” he said.
Cason did request one practical improvement for next year. Bud’s Best Cookies was found along the back wall of the Sky Hall, which features large windows. At midday, the light streamed in.
“The sun is blinding,” Cason told us.
He explained that visitors to the booth had to cover their eyes to see him as they faced the booth. While there were shades on half the windows, the other half remained uncovered.
Atlantic Natural Foods, which had a more central booth space, said that this was their first year at PLMA and they loved it. PLMA upgraded the company to a bigger booth to entice them to try the Sky Hall. The all-natural vegetarian and vegan foods supplier told PLB that they were very busy with a lot of foot traffic, including a lot of international attendees.
Gary Petersen, a member of the private brands team at Red Gold, a company whose booth moved up to the Sky Hall this year, told PLB “I have mixed feelings on the customer interaction in the new Sky Hall. Although we did see many customers, we felt that we had one opportunity to catch walk by’s, as they spent most of their time down on the main floor. We are still gathering input from all in attendance and weighing our options for next year.”
One effort to attract retailers and wholesalers to the hall was PLMA’s Sky Hall Drawing. The association gave away $1,000 on Monday and Tuesday at 3 p.m.
“I’ve been really pleased with the effort PLMA made to introduce the Sky Hall."
Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA provided coffee service at the entry of the Sky Hall. The coffee service both kept things moving and provided a great casual space for attendees to meet each other.
“I’ve been really pleased with the effort PLMA made to introduce the Sky Hall,” said Bill McKee, vice president of U.S. Private Label Sales, Simmons Pet Food, Inc.
“I haven’t even been downstairs, we’ve been so steady.”
According to PLMA, in addition to opening future access to 500 units, PLMA’s Sky Hall expansion had the added benefit of freeing up space for expansion on the lower level for larger companies and opening up additional spaces for first-time exhibitors.