Certain categories became more essential and some less so, and that led to supply challenges and scarcity on shelves. After an initial crisis mentality, consumers adapted, and the industry has had to adjust as well. For most of retailing and consumables everything we’re seeing now is a result of the demand patterns of consumers changing, and what shoppers are finding in stores. Changes came knocking and private label answered.
SB: Take us through the thought process in developing PLMA Live Presents: Private Label Week.
AA: Like many of our members’ companies and their customers facing unprecedented challenges in 2020, it was necessary for PLMA to make a number of incredibly hard choices and decisions. It’s not the first time PLMA has had to deal with adversity, however. Following our trade show in 2001, we presented PLMA Encore! which made PLMA exhibitors available online for the entire retail community and anyone else not able to make it to Chicago in the wake of 9/11.
When Hurricane Sandy struck barely two weeks before Chicago, putting half of Manhattan — where PLMA has headquarters — underwater in blackout conditions, the show still went on and the buyers came. The fact is that PLMA has been accustomed to having to pivot, and attendance numbers in both cases only served to demonstrate once again how important PLMA is to retailers.
SB: Tell us about the platform and the many bells and whistles it has.
AA: First of all, the entire trade show floor of exhibitors and products exists in the cloud and is therefore accessible from anywhere. All that’s required for anyone to attend is a reliable broadband internet connection and a computer with a webcam and speakers, which of course by now is every company’s standard equipment. No special software is required as the entire experience is delivered via a web-based browser.
Exhibitors will be able to feature products within their online trade show booth, upload sales materials, and even present video promotions for their products and capabilities if they wish.
Exhibitors will have the opportunity to make their products searchable and easy to identify by retail buyers. Products and exhibitors will not only be searchable by department and category, but by country as well as specific product attributes such as environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging or ingredients, dietary and health concerns, for example.
Buyers will not just have the ability to search quickly and easily for specific products they want to find, they can then decide to initiate contact, make meeting requests, and connect instantly with exhibiting companies through video conferencing. In addition to face-to-face interactions, retailers can engage with suppliers using secure communication tools to exchange business cards, to make specific requests via a private chat function, to share images, file views or online content, and to send and receive documents in a variety of different forms as may be needed.
SB: What should retailers expect from PL Week? Why does it matter to retailers?
AA: As 2021 begins, everyone is looking for better solutions and formats to find new products, new suppliers, or conduct business meetings remotely. Zoom and other stop-gap methods only take the sales and innovation discussion so far. On PLMA’s new Digital Experience platform, retailers will have control throughout all five days, according to their own schedule, for setting one-on-one video visits with exhibitors and potential suppliers, initiating private and secure communications, sharing and receiving information across the platform about products, packaging, and other requirements.