As arctic air whipped the Midwest and record snowfalls blanketed the Northeast, retailers from around the country gathered in sunny Phoenix to discuss the financial, real estate and human-resources challenges of small to mid-sized companies.
The first Main & Wall Conference, held Feb. 6-8 at the luxurious Biltmore Resort, was developed by Chain Store Age and David N. Deutsch & Co. of New York City to provide a networking and educational event for vibrant mid-sized retailers. The multitude of mainstream conferences that exist throughout the retail and finance industries typically cater to large, publicly traded companies, overlooking dynamic smaller companies that may have strong potential for long-term success.
‘Great conference-I enjoyed the peer-to-peer concept and networking. Everything was very well done, and [Biltmore Resort] was a great venue. Count me in to attend next year, and all the years to come!’—Myles Lewis, COO
Headquarters: Garden City, N.Y.Retail brands: Sterling Optical and Site for Sore EyesNo. of stores: Approximately 200 locations in 23 statesAnnual sales (2005)*: $87.9 million
*Source: Chain Store Guide
Conference chairman David Deutsch, president of David N. Deutsch & Co., characterized the potential in his welcoming comments: “We’re here to celebrate strong and growing mid-sized companies.” He cited Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear, which had 10 stores five years ago, but today is making headlines as one of the fastest-growing retail concepts with 188 stores and plans to open as many as 100 new stores this year. “The retailers sitting in this room [at Main & Wall] will likely be the [headline] story five years from now,” he predicted.
In a room full of growth-minded, ambitious retail executives, Deutsch was preaching to the choir. Unsurprisingly, attendees who had traded overcoats and subzero temperatures for stimulating dialogue in spring weather were all smiles during this threeday respite from winter. The lingering question was whether or not retailers would have equally positive feedback when they returned to their offices and digested the Main & Wall experience. In conversations with attendees after the event, the answer was a resounding endorsement that this should be the first of many such events.
“I go to two or three conferences each year, and Main & Wall was unique,” acknowledged Tom Erickson, senior VP and CFO of Northern Tool+Equipment Co., based in Burnsville, Minn. “What I liked best, besides the weather and location, of course, was that each session was unique and provided views from different perspectives. An investment banker thinks differently than a [retail] CEO and it was interesting to hear each discuss their views on particular topics.”
What had drawn retailers and financial professionals alike to Main & Wall was the promise of peer-to-peer networking and the opportunities to establish worthwhile business relationships. John Brewer, president and co-founder of Wake Forest, N.C.-based ShipOnSite, reported, “I discovered surprising synergies for my business, both with vendors as well as other retailers, and I’ve already been in touch with several of the people I met at Main & Wall.”
The articles in this report share insights into the subjects presented at Main & Wall.