The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced Tuesday that it will be joining forces with the National Retail Federation (NRF) for a combined annual conference in 2018. Under the NRF PROTECT conference banner, NRF PROTECT 2018 will be “brought to you by NRF and FMI,” to the benefit of the retail asset protection, risk, and food safety professionals.
LP Magazine sat down with leadership from both the FMI and the NRF immediately following the announcement to learn more about what this means to the asset protection and risk professional. The group included (from left): Bob Moraca, vice president of loss prevention, NRF; Rob Peter, manager of retail safety and OSHA compliance, Publix and FMI Risk and Safety Council; Scott Ziter, director of asset protection, Golub Corporation / Price Chopper and chairman, FMI Asset Protection Council; and Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations, FMI.
A Decision that Benefits Everyone
FMI explained that they have been reassessing each of their conferences and have found success in partnering with other events for other sectors it services, beyond the asset protection and risk audiences, and the opportunity with the NRF was a natural fit. Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations for FMI told LP Magazine, “Across the retail landscape, everyone is being challenged to do more with less. Pressure on retailers’ time, with consolidated responsibilities, makes it difficult to attend multiple conferences. For the solution provider, it is a similar issue, trying to find the best value for their marketing spend when working to reach customers and prospects. A combination like this provides value in reducing the time and investment necessary to support two separate events.”
Baker added, “We continued planning our FMI ASAP event in Orlando, with the hopes of this partnership coming to fruition in 2018.”
Baker further elaborated that the decision to move forward with the merger of the conferences was a decision made under the direction and guidance of the FMI steering committee, which fully supported the decision and agreed that the opportunity would bring benefits all around. “This event belongs to the retailers,” said Baker. “It was critical that we had their understanding, acceptance, and approval.”
Bob Moraca, vice president of loss prevention for NRF, added that “both organizations are driven by their membership.We have LP experts and great thought leadership driving both agendas, which are actually quite similar.”
Scott Ziter, director of Asset Protection for Price Chopper and chairman of the FMI Asset Protection Council, noted, “The agendas for both conferences were so aligned—yet were developed separately. This overlap in content demonstrated the need for these industry segments to collaborate and converge. If you look at the conference agendas for 2017, the presentation topics are similar, and the problems are the same: EMV, concerns over escalating violence, active shooter…We can bring these two groups together to work collectively on solutions. It is a win-win for both groups and for the industry overall.”
Moraca went on to explain: “FMI and NRF have always worked well together, and it is a great match. We have always had very open dialogue with open candor, intelligence, and goodwill that has always been there between our two groups. We see this opportunity as more than just one plus one equals two, but rather three, four, or even five as a force multiplier in added value for our industry.”
Why a Combined NRF and FMI Conference Makes Sense
While there is overlap in the 2017 agendas, what there is less of is an overlap of attendees to both conferences. Yet there is a greater overlap of solution providers supporting these conferences. By combining these two events, there will be a bigger and more diverse LP community in attendance. This will provide attendees with a greater opportunity to learn from each other, sharing knowledge and best practices, while allowing for cost and time savings that will be realized by both the retailer and the solution provider alike.
Each organization will still have its own steering committee driving a specific agenda for its specific audience. But they will also collaborate to take advantage of the crossover in topics and in audience roles to put forward an exceptional educational agenda, combined with an expanded exhibit hall that will be complete with a section specific to the food industry and food safety segment.
In fact, when researching and evaluating the value-proposition for the concept of a combined conference, both organizations realized the value that FMI would bring to the NRF conference in the safety and food safety expertise both from the retailers and in the additional related solution providers, who today do not support the NRF conference, but will attend and contribute shared value in 2018.
Moraca notes, “We will have specific tracks, but with a ripple effect of value as we continue to grow in the future. We will be able to add more food safety subject-matter experts to the agenda, which is something we have not been as strong with in the past. In addition, we at the NRF are always looking at where IT and AP work hand in hand, and how they work together. This will allow us to collectively expand the participation of more companies and more professionals in IT, AP, Risk, and Food Safety for a stronger and more valuable agenda.”
What Does This Mean for FMI?
While the asset protection conference will be a combined effort, FMI and NRF are not merging associations. Each will continue to be leaders in their industries and remain focused on their own agendas. FMI will continue its mission with a focus on advocacy for food safety, on legislative topics supporting the food industry, and on driving value for its members.