Across-section of the nation’s leading retailers came together at Chain Store Age’s 44th SPECS conference, in Dallas. Architects, designers and contractors also attended the annual event, which combined a strong program agenda with a lively exhibit floor (the Solution Center) that was home to the newest in the way of store planning/design, construction and facilities-management products and services.
All segments of the retail industry were represented at SPECS/2008, from supermarkets to discounters to home improvement stores. Aeropostale Inc., Guess?, Inc., Best Buy Co., HEB Co., The Home Depot, Rite Aid, J.C. Penney, REI, PetSmart and Wal-Mart Stores were just a few of the retailers in attendance.
The specialty food and restaurant categories were represented by such companies as Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Panda Restaurant Group, Sonic Restaurants and Chipotle Mexican Grill. A complete list of the retail chains and other companies, including suppliers, at SPECS/2008 begins on page 186.
SPECS is known for its quality education program, which this year kicked off with an exciting, pre-conference session on personal development and business strategy. The regular workshop program featured targeted workshops in six individual tracks: big-box construction, small-box construction, facilities management, store planning and design, personal development/business strategy, and, for the first time, sustainability. A solutions track, comprised of mini-sessions offering real-life solutions to real-life problems, spotlighted specific products and services from Solution Center suppliers.
In keeping with SPECS tradition, the event provided an ideal forum for attendees—first-timers and veterans alike—to discuss industry issues and common challenges. Business partnering and networking are crucial to the SPECS experience, and both were very much in evidence at this year’s show. Retailers and other attendees greeted old acquaintances, strengthened existing alliances and forged new ones during workshop sessions, on the show floor, and during coffee breaks and meals. Evening receptions gave all a chance to relax.
Planning for SPECS/2009, which will be held Feb. 22-25, at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla., is already under way. The program is being developed by the SPECS Advisory Board, which is made up of retailers, consultants and suppliers.