Velocity, Vertex & Bourbon

This guest post is from my friend and colleague Phil Russo the Publisher of Global Retail Brands Magazine.

I’ve been in the media business my entire career. To be honest, I’ve been in media even before I had a career. My first “real” job was in high school, driving a publisher to and from a racetrack to buy thoroughbred horses. My point is, I’ve seen and done a lot, from magazines to newsletters, blast faxes to direct mail, websites to twitter, bespoke conferences for 10 to trade shows for tens of thousands.

So I made it my business to get to know Christopher Durham when he burst onto the scene with My Private Brand, and introduced myself to him at an FMI Private Brand Summit. I was impressed, and got the sense that his vision for the industry was far more interesting than what the typical trade publication, including the one I was working for, which has since become Store Brands, was portraying at the time. I made a point to stay in contact and I’m glad I did.

Christopher Durham encouraged my idea to start Global Retail Brands at PLMA in 2012. Not only that, he offered his help, which I’ve come to learn is a habit for him. Regardless of how inundated he is, he’s always willing to support and help. That sort of stuff impresses me.

Fast forward to PLMA 2013 in Chicago. The magazine had been running for a year, I felt like I hadn’t slept in weeks, but I enjoyed a moment of relaxation with Christopher over a bourbon or two and that’s when the idea for the Vertex Awards was hatched. We shared the desire to recognize world-class design in a way to promote the winners, not the publishing team. In March 2014, the first Vertex Awards issue of the magazine was published.

As I’ve since come to learn, once a new idea becomes a reality with Christopher, that’s just the beginning of several new ones. First the competition, then the issue, then an event to recognize and network with the designers, retailers and suppliers who made the award-winning products possible. Just this past May, in Amsterdam, we celebrated with winners during the PLMA Trade Show.

But all throughout, the idea of a conference was always at the top of Christoper’s mind. His sense that the best way to propel the ideas and aspirations of what we put in print and online, was to share them live, in person, with lively debate, networking and fun. The ultimate goal was to find a way to share the knowledge needed to build billion dollar private brands.

So I resorted to my usual comment, “That sounds great Christopher, but where will you find the time?”

Well somewhere between the PLMA Leadership Conference in March and this past September 13, he found the time. Velocity 2017 saw more than 120 executives and thought leaders gather to share insight into the accomplishments and challenges they face while advancing their private brand programs. Executives from Walmart, Fresh Direct, Staples,, Lowe’s Foods, Nielsen, Giant Eagle and BJ’s Wholesale Club presented with surprising candor, providing somewhat of a graduate course for those fortunate enough to be in attendance.

If you didn’t attend the 2017 event, you missed something that would no doubt have improved your business, whether you are a retailer, supplier or service provider. I strongly encourage you not to miss the next.

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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.