Cantrex Hosts PrimeTime

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, Cantrex Nationwide (CNW), brought together some 530 industry professionals in-person at the Palais de Congrès here including retail members and their vendor partners three days of learning, networking and buying.

Cantrex PrimeTime – the group’s national convention and buying show – also marked a delayed celebration of the organization’s 60th anniversary, which occurred in 2020.

“There was an overall feeling of vitality and camaraderie throughout the entire event,” CNW president and chief operating officer Jeannine Ghaleb said in a statement. “We wanted this Cantrex PrimeTime, along with the celebration of our 60th anniversary, postponed from 2020, to be a very special one that our members and vendor partners would remember for years to come.”

The general conference was opened by recognizing Cantrex Nationwide’s independent retailers’ outstanding performance over the past two years on several key performance indicators.

“In almost every industry category, Cantrex members have outperformed their markets, delivering exceptional results,” Ghaleb said, although no specifics were provided. “Our suppliers have told us so, industry statistics have shown it, and our own data shows it in comparison to Dun & Bradstreet.”

This year’s theme was Reshaping the Future of Retail and throughout the event, members and vendors heard and saw first-hand the many tools and opportunities available to maximize their growth potential.

From having the right brands/vendors and expanding their business, to utilizing technology to improve efficiencies and leveraging the best of online and offline when reshaping their store experience – these were only a few of the strategies participants explored as they looked for ways to stay ahead in an ever-changing retail environment.

A new Cantrex website solution designed for the independent retailer kept the marketing services team busy at the show, as members enhance their website experience and ramp up their online presence to drive more and more shoppers to their stores.

“Nowadays, it is imperative to have a strong digital presence in order to remain relevant,” CNW vice president of appliances and marketing John Garey said. “We are continuously expanding our digital marketing solutions to independent retailers, keeping their websites relevant, making it easy for shoppers to navigate, delivering the right content through a simple, clean, professional design and ultimately driving more sales online and into their physical stores.”

Industry and company updates, retail trends and a global economic outlook from an RBC strategist, provided valuable insights and approaches to remaining competitive during these volatile times.

To lighten things up, after dealing with our share of challenges over the past couple of years, this year’s conference speaker was Canadian stand-up and improvisational comedian, Roman Danylo. He delivered a heaping dose of humour to the audience through several interactive sketches relating to the independent retail channel.

Following the conference, member retailers attended their respective category meetings, where select vendors along with the CNW team presented important updates and tactics they could benefit from for the balance of the year and into 2023.

Justin Sharma, a Cantrex member from Vernon, British Columbia, inspired many of his peers with his talk on Transitioning Family Businesses to the Next Generations.

Round table discussions gave attending retailers the opportunity to share real-life experiences and best practices with their peers. These lively, engaging sessions addressed many of the pressing challenges independent retailers are confronted with – from labour shortages and planning for business continuity to increasing profits by leveraging new revenue streams and engaging shoppers through digital marketing.

“We had an outstanding time especially since it was our first show since COVID began,” said Corey McMullan, CNW member, brand influencer and owner of McMullan Appliance & Mattress in Smith Falls, Ontario. “We found exceptional value in the succession planning session and meeting some vendors in-person was critical for me.”

Business was brisk at the one-day buying show, which featured a number of vendor partners in the appliance, bedding, furniture, consumer electronics, photography, outdoor and business service categories. The group said, as inventory shortages and supply chain pressures continue to ease business resembled pre-pandemic levels as retailers took advantage of the savings and new business opportunities by stocking up for the all-important fourth quarter.

The day also featured the re-launch of the Cantrex’s own Allura mattress-in-a-box as well new product and program introductions from a number of vendors exclusive to the group’s membership.

The social highlight of the event was its 60th anniversary gala, held at the neighbouring Westin Montreal hotel and featuring celebrated Quebec musician Gregory Charles.

“It was really well organized and of great quality, both the show itself and the gala, which was exceptional thanks to Gregory Charles,” said CNW member Frédéric Gagnon, president of Groupe Gagnon Frères in Chicoutimi, Québec. “Everyone is very happy to have participated!”

While the date and location have yet to be determined, Ghaleb said the next Cantrex PrimeTime will be held in the fall of 2023.

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