Walking the Walk of Partnership
Mary Ellen Kuhn
We hear a lot of talk in this business about the importance of partnerships. Usually the partnerships discussed are those between retailers and vendors.
Last month two important and influential entities in the candy universe—the National Confectioners Association (NCA) and an organization best known as ECRM—did more than talk the talk. They walked the oh-so-tricky-to-negotiate path of partnership.
After some negotiation the two groups announced that—rather than sponsoring competing events—they would join forces. Starting with an event next month, NCA and ECRM (which is short for Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) will team up on conferences designed to bring buyers and sellers together for strategic planning and purchasing.
ECRM has a well-deserved reputation as a pioneer in this arena. The organization’s events have done a lot to streamline the sales and marketing supply line. ECRM’s technological innovations, in particular, are top-notch. Meanwhile, NCA, which in February staged its first event of this kind, the NCA Candy Marketplace, is no slouch when it comes to pulling off a first-class event. Feedback on NCA’s premiere marketplace has been positive.
But the bottom line is, we don’t need two separately sponsored series of such events. For both NCA and ECRM to continue sponsoring them would have been a real drain on the resources of our industry. And that’s a message that many candy category managers and vendors have been articulating loudly and clearly.
So congratulations to NCA and ECRM for listening to your constituent groups and rising above self-interest. The candy business is facing more than enough challenges in the marketplace. The last thing we need is to work at cross-purposes on an internal level.
If the message from the candy industry leadership is that buyer/seller cooperation is the surest route to success, then it surely does make sense for leading organizations to demonstrate cooperation and collaboration. Few forms of leadership are as effective as leading by example.
Getting Tough
And while I’m dishing out the kudos this month, I must add that NCA’s decision to eliminate the Children’s Hour at the All Candy Expo in June is one smart move.
I like kids as much as the next person; I’ve got a couple of my own, in fact. But the sad reality is that leaving the final hour of the Expo open for kids to forage for candy has created a situation akin to the looting of Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein! And let’s be honest, the blame shouldn’t actually fall on the kids; the greedy adults who seemed to come out of the woodwork were the major offenders.
The Children’s Hour was a really nice idea. But, unfortunately, those who abused it created an intolerable situation. Cutting it out is a good first step toward making the last day of the show as much of a meaningful, professional opportunity for doing business as the first two days already are.