The Velocity Conference 10 Days Later

Sometimes, I like to put a little time between an event and a post, to provide some perspective and get some feedback, so it’s ten days after the inaugural Velocity: The My Private Brand Conference (September 13-15, 2017). Let’s talk. The event brought together more than 120 executives from around the country, of which:

  • 36% were retailers,
  • 21% manufacturers,
  • 21% service providers, and
  • 16% branding and packaging agencies.

However, the event was certainly not without its hiccups. The My Private Brand team showed up to the hotel Wednesday morning to discover the “minor” construction the hotel had mentioned was gigantic walls, missing escalators in the middle of the hotel, jackhammers and construction workers. Not to mention old technology that wasn’t always compatible, and technical assistants that kept disappearing. I must apologize to Jack Pestello for the sound that did not work and the dim lighting which he soldiered through. Thank you, Jack, for your understanding and professionalism.

Despite all of that, we worked the kinks out, the sound and lighting got better, and attendees were excited to listen to their peers, and mix and mingle. And the post Velocity survey response is overwhelming – 93% of attendees said they would absolutely return to the event next year, and the remainder said they probably would. 89% of attendees rated the event Excellent or Very Good.

When asked, “What did you like about Velocity?” attendee responses included:

“I liked how focused it was, I liked the caliber of both attendees and presenters, and I liked the ease of connecting in an intimate environment.”

“The attendees were really the right folks to have in the room — leaders in the industry speaking, and engaged, interested and thoughtful folks attending.”

“It was a great gathering of minds, connecting on trends, and the future of the industry.”

I would like to say a sincere thank you to our Platinum sponsor, Marketing by Design (MBD), and Gold sponsors, S4RB and research firm PRS IN VIVO. Your support, along with all of the Silver sponsors, helped make the event possible.

I would also like to thank our partners. Global Retail Brands magazine publisher Phil Russo has consistently supported My Private Brand, Velocity and myself. As well as, Women in Storebrand Excellence (WISE) who made the speaker from Nielsen, Vanna Tran, possible and helped to drive the attendance of women at the event to 57%. Thank you, Peggy Davies and Jen Linke.

The agenda featured impactful stories by retail executives from Walmart, Fresh Direct, Staples, Boxed, Lowe’s Foods, Giant Eagle and BJ’s Wholesale Club. The crowd buzzed with excitement as each presentation was completed, jumping head first into lively debate and networking.

Thursdays Presentations included:

  • Jack Pestello, senior vice president, private brands, at Walmart U.S. who discussed the retailer’s commitment to private brand and its quality as well as their focus on the customer.
  • Chris Demeo, VP, Global Channel Sales, at Staples who detailed how the Staples team engages associates from the stores up as brand ambassadors.
  • Carrie Mesing, FreshDirect’s Senior Director of Private Brands, a proud millennial who enlightened the crowd on her generation and preached the gospel of radical transparency and private brand.
  • Vanna Tran, Director of Multicultural Growth & Strategy at Nielsen, who challenged the audience to understand the emerging multicultural female consumer and her importance in the coming years.
  • Adam Golomb, Director of Own Brands & Sourcing, at Giant Eagle, who gave attendees a look inside their redesign of the Giant Eagle private brand portfolio.

As well as Velocity Talks from

  • Katie Locke of MBD, who revealed the Private Brand Buzzkills that were revealed in research commissioned for the conference.
  • Jonathan Asher, Executive Vice President, PRS IN VIVO, who gave insights into how to overcome e-commerce hurdles. He showed the results of some intriguing research which merchandised products online in innovative ways.

Friday began with

  • Jeff Gamsey, vice president, private brands at the disruptive online wholesale club retailer Boxed told the story of Boxed and its private brand Prince & Spring. He discussed how a team of techies created an online retailer that went from garage to $100M+ in three years, building an award-winning private brand along the way.
  • Scott Williams, Vice President of Own Brands & Quality, BJ’s Wholesale Club, asked the simple question, “What if it was easy?” and then went on to explain how it was the mantra behind the redevelopment of the BJ’s private brand portfolio and program.
  • Kristof Duna, MDI/Lowes Food, Lisa Edwards of Belk and Jon Fehrman of Big Lots joined a panel moderated by Steve Martin of MBD in a lively private brand discussion of the “retail apocalypse.”

As well as Velocity Talks from

  • Kieran Forsey, CEO, S4RB, explained Unified Brand Experience and detailed how it has the potential to reimagine private brand success. He also provided each attendee with a copy of the first in the series of three books on the subject.

I am happy to say that the event was a success. In the next few weeks, we will announce the date and location of next year’s event, without construction, I promise. I look forward to seeing you all again in 2018 and continuing to drive change in Private Brand.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.