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    A Texas Tradeshow for McLane

    More than 300 vendors and 450 retailers attended this year's profit-themed show.

    By Renee M. Covino

    SAN ANTONIO -- After three years of holding its National Tradeshow in Las Vegas, leading c-store distributor McLane Co. put a home-state spin on this year's event -- hosting its vendors and retailers here last week.

    More than 300 vendors and 450 retailers representing about 12,000 stores attended this year's profit-themed show, according to Jerry Rose, vice president of trade relations for the Temple-based distributor.

    Highlighted at center-stage of the show was McLane's "C-Store Profit Mart," a store mock-up featuring the "best of the best in planograms,' Rose explained.

    "It is a national planogram with a Texas flair," maintained Stuart Clark, vice president of sales for McLane's c-store channel. "The purpose is to show the products featured at the show in an ideal in-line format."

    Inside the Profit Mart, there was a heavy SKU emphasis of snacks and sweets, not only in 16-foot dedicated category aisles, but also on several endcaps and cross-merchandised sections, for example, meat snacks adjacent to motor oil.

    The snacks category was also a key topic of one of the event speakers, Kit Dietz of Dietz Consulting LLC. He discussed how retailers who leveraged snacks using activity-based costing (or the ABC pricing model) saw a 9 percent improvement in sales.

    "You might not like to hear it, but managing supply chain costs is this industry's biggest opportunity," Dietz said in an early-morning session.

    Nik Modi, a senior analyst with UBS Investment Research, also spoke at the trade show, providing trends and statistics for the major c-store product categories.

    When it came time to ordering products they saw at the show, retail attendees were provided with McLane's third-generation hand-held order collection devices.

    "We're continually improving upon them, it's a unique way for stores to order whether they have one store or fifty," said Deon Johnson, director of business analysis for McLane. "We've eliminated massive paper copies, and when they leave the show, they know exactly what they've committed to. And they're not just for use at the show -- we have 6,500 stores ordering with them every day."

    "Best of all, they are smart systems; retailers can look at a store's past history and compare average movement and peaks," added David Rutland, director of e-business and internet systems for McLane.

    Aside from all the business conducted at the show, McLane also made sure its attendees could relax in style. Off to the back of the show floor, an upscale smoking lounge with "ambiance" lighting was provided by Swedish Match -- a place where show attendees could unwind and perhaps even network, while enjoying a smoke on more than a dozen oversized leather chairs and couches. "It is like the Starbucks of a tradeshow, only with tobacco," one retailer commented from behind a cigar.

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