THE FIRST TIME I MET DAVE MCCONNELL he gave me some sage advice. “You are overdressed for a GMDC conference,” he said as I stood in a three- piece suit in the sweltering Florida heat in September of 1984.
“No one wears suits at these events. It is
a casual setting. Go upstairs and change.”
For a nervous rookie to the world of
supermarket nonfoods retailing, even
that comment was welcomed. I did not
know the ;rst thing
about retailing at
that point (some of
you may say nothing
has changed) and a
comment, even one
about how I dressed,
was enough to make
me realize that someone had my back as
I began my journey
into this very interesting and demanding
Over the many years that we have
known each other, I am proud to say that
Dave has become a very good friend,
someone I quickly grew to trust and
someone I knew I could count on for
advice or to simply bounce an idea or
concept o; of. That relationship has only
grown stronger over these last 31 years.
But, frankly, I am jealous.
While Dave was becoming one of my
best friends in the strange and wonderful word of nonfoods retailing, I quickly
came to realize that I was not alone.
Through his uncanny ability to remember just about everything about everyone, an always-upbeat personality and
a gift of gab unrivaled in this industry, I
can bet that there are hundreds, maybe
thousands, of other people out there
who have the same relationship with
Dave that I do.
Of course, in these days of increasing demand for more sales and pro;ts,
being a nice guy is not enough. McConnell—who joined GMDC in 1980,
took over the president/CEO title about
20 years later and retired at the end of
2015—played an enormous role in the
development of this organization. And,
at times, it was not a very easy job.
Through a combination of subtle
lobbying, gentle handholding and, at
times, some arm twisting, McConnell
has helped GMDC become the leading
voice touting the many bene;ts of the
general merchandise and health and
beauty care categories, plus wellness,
at grocery stores over the years. He has
done it by building a consensus among
often-;ckle GMDC members and put-
ting into place new programs, strate-
gies and technologies to keep the Colo-
rado Springs, Colo.-based organization
ahead of the curve.
With a strong team helping along
the way, McConnell has maintained the
quality of GMDC’s two annual meetings, each designed to bring retailers,
distributors and manufacturers together
in productive controlled conferences. In
the end, these meetings have helped to
make everyone more aware of the issues
facing them in business today and ways
to solve any problems. In summary, with
nonfoods under constant attack from
other categories looking for more space
at supermarkets, GMDC has stood out
in front as a voice of reason. For many
years, McConnell has always been the
person at the forefront of GMDC.
McConnell will not ride into the sunset easily. He has already accepted a position to lead making change, a 501(c)
( 3) charitable association that operates
a point-of-sale fund-raising program.
Now his job is to build awareness of
that organization starting this month.
My bet is that he will quickly succeed,
if only because it is di;cult to stop a
good man on a mission.
I hope, though, that no matter what
the future holds, he does not forget
about that 26-year-old kid in the sweaty
three-piece suit who was just looking for
a friendly face in a crowd of strangers on
one of his ;rst assignments in the industry. His friendship helped make someone else’s journey a bit easier. S
NICE GUYS CAN FINISH FIRST
Recently retired Global Market Development Center o;cial, Dave McConnell,
helped build the organization into what it is today.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
By Seth Mendelson
Seth Mendelson is publisher and
editorial director of Grocery Headquarters magazine.