Q&A: A walk through PLMA week
The Private Label Manufacturers Association is gearing up for its virtual event PLMA Live Presents: Private Label Week, a weeklong event that will bring retailers, suppliers and industry leaders together over a proprietary online platform. The week, Feb. 1 to 5, 2021, will include virtual meetings, educational sessions and more.
Anthony Aloia, corporate vice president at New York-based PLMA, is excited about the association’s PLMA Live Presents: Private Label Week event and has been a cog in the development of the event.
He talked with Store Brands about the upcoming event.
Store Brands: How are things in the mass retail world? How is the industry responding?
Anthony Aloia: Food and nonfood consumables were both upended in ways that were impossible to imagine at the start of 2020. For families everywhere, working remote and remote learning for kids, along with greater concerns for health and wellness meant restructuring a new normal around meals at home — including snack, comfort foods and beverages, and new interest in cooking and baking of all kinds. They’re taking healthcare and personal care more seriously, too, and maintaining a cleaner home environment. One big winner is pets. They never saw so much love and attention as the past months.
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.
In addition, buyers can choose to view video category profiles, watch special industry reports and speaker presentations on the latest trends and research, not to mention see what’s new and exciting in store brands on retailers’ shelves from PLMA’s Idea Supermarket and the winners of PLMA’s Salute to Excellence Awards.
The structure of the category shows allows for the breath and depth of attendance. Buyer personnel who never experienced a PLMA show in person may now attend the PLMA category show day focused for the specific products they are most interested in.
SB: How should suppliers prepare for this event
AA: Most importantly, manufacturers need to sign-up early and begin setting up their digital exhibitor booth. This will allow them to familiarize themselves with everything the platform offers, with sufficient time to plan their best presentation, preview and make improvements.
There will be several weeks for exhibitors to build their booth, create and upload supplemental sales materials like product catalogues, company brochures or promotional videos.
Just as they invest in their booth for in-person events, suppliers should put their best foot forward, prepare sales and marketing materials for the digital booth, and choosing the latest, best and most innovative products to exhibit using high-quality product images.
At all times during the event, exhibitors can have any two of their personnel maintaining the booth and actively engaging with buyers. A total of six exhibitor personnel can register, enabling them to plan staffing for the booth accordingly.
SB: What is PLMA doing to facilitate interaction before and after the event?
AA: Exhibitors will receive a list of registered retail and wholesale buyers prior to the event to assist them in reaching out to invite visitors to their booth and schedule appointments ahead of time if they choose.
Meetings within the digital exhibit booths will be able to take place throughout the entire time PLMA Live! presents Private Label Week is in progress, as well as afterwards. The platform will remain open for 90 days following the live component of the event.
Similarly, PLMA Live! video programming will continue to be accessible at www.PLWEEK.com, offering an enormous range of insights and ideas, as well as reports about the show itself for everyone who has signed up to participate.