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Distribution America and PRO Group Hold First Virtual Executive Planning Conference

To provide attendees with invaluable one-on-one interactions amidst the pandemic, Distribution America and PRO Group, Inc. have hosted the first ever virtual Executive Planning Conference (EPC) using the Zoom platform.

From Nov. 16-19, distributor and vendor attendees had the opportunity to meet in 1,818 private, prescheduled appointments through the breakout rooms function. It is through this unique virtual experience that industry-leading suppliers and distributors tackled the challenges of the year and outlined opportunities moving forward into 2021.

“The Virtual EPC was a tremendous success! Both wholesaler and manufacturer participants engaged in the training process to ensure they were able to communicate effectively using the Zoom breakout room platform,” says Steve Synnott, president and CEO of PRO Group. “That preparation led to meaningful one-on-one appointments that will shape new and expanded business in 2021.”

Within the breakout rooms, manufacturer attendees had the ability to share documents, present program information and demonstrate new product as they would during an in-person event. In addition, new manufacturers to the Distribution America and PRO Group programs had a vital opportunity to forge new business relationships during a time when travel is not feasible.

“I applaud DA and PRO leadership for pivoting to a virtual EPC this year to allow for safe and productive planning sessions with the distributor members,” says Ryan Vasquez, national account manager with Stanley Black and Decker. “The EPC is an immensely valuable opportunity for us to connect with members and build customer-specific strategic plans. By utilizing all the tools available on the Zoom platform, we could walk through detailed presentations with better visuals than we were typically able to offer. This year’s format ensured that we were more efficient with our time and more adaptable to specific requests since we were in our offices with all of our resources at our fingertips.”

Sarah Lee, vice president of Blish-Mize, says the 2021 Executive Planning Conference was a welcome event at a time when it was most needed.

“Planning for 2021 on the heels of the year we’ve had is crucial. Now more than ever we need vendor support and communication. The virtual platform provided the best way to do that. The Blish-Mize preparation for the conference was standard in regard to building a meeting agenda tailored to each participant, including sales and inventory updates. This year we had the added benefit of connecting vendors with Blish-Mize personnel from multiple departments who wouldn’t normally attend this conference including our president and CEO, sales and marketing and distribution center staff,” Lee says.

Ed McKinney, vice president of purchasing at Wallace Hardware, says the virtual format is economical.

“The EPC is a perfect platform to bring together upper vendor management with distributor management and their buying teams to examine the year’s business performance and look for opportunities for growth. The beauty of the Zoom format is that it can save precious time without having to travel and the travel expenses saved allows a very economical opportunity to visit with the many different business partners and prospects during the 3-day period,” McKinney says.

In addition to the scheduled appointments, EPC attendees were also invited to attend a general session with keynote speaker Catherine Putney from ITR Economics. During her interactive presentation, Putney covered economic trends and what effects COVID-19 will continue to have into the new year. Attendees were also able to participate in Supplier of the Year awards and a digital vendor showcase which allowed distributor members to view and vote for the best showcase. These additional virtual events ensured that the centerpieces of every EPC were present despite the extraordinary shift in industry events this year.

“This pandemic has caused all of us to do business differently,” says Dave Christmas, president and CEO of Distribution America. “This year’s EPC attendees adapted to a new normal of virtual events. We concluded another highly successful conference after countless hours of preparation and the support of our distributor members and the vendor community. We were able to exchange new business concepts and forward-looking strategic plans at a time meeting in person was not feasible.”

The following are the winners of the Vendor Showcase and the Suppliers of the Year for Distribution America and PRO Group.

Distribution America Vendors of the Year

Plumbing: B&K Products
Tools: Stanley Black & Decker
Paint: WM Barr
Lawn and Garden: West Chester Gear
Specialty: Gardner-Gibson
Electrical: Southwire
Hardware: Spectrum HHI National Hardware/Kwikset
Partnership Award: Century Drill & Too

PRO Group, Inc. Key Suppliers of the Year
Plumbing: Oatey SCS
Tools: Great Neck Saw
Paint: WM Barr
Lawn and Garden: Ames Companies
Safety: Honeywell Safety Products
Electrical: World & Main (H2 Brands)
Hardware: Spectrum HHI National Hardware/Kwikset
Overall Key Supplier of the Year: DAP Products Inc.

Vendor Showcase Awards
Hand and Power Tools: Stanley Black & Decker
Hardware: World and Main
Plumbing: B&K Products
Electrical: Duracell
Lawn and Garden: The Ames Companies
Safety: Honeywell Safety Products
Paint Sundries: DAP Products Inc.
Housewares: Rubbermaid (Newell Brands CCS Division)
New Vendor: Coleman Power Sports
Overall: Zep

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based Distribution America is a multibillion dollar buying and marketing organization, covering 50 states and international markets assisting retailers and distributors with merchandising and marketing programs including Priced Right Everyday®, Sentry, Trustworthy Hardware and Golden Rule.

PRO Group is a multidivisional international merchandising and marketing organization with corporate headquarters in Denver. Its operating units include PRO Hardware, GardenMaster, FARM MART and GOLDEN-LINK. With over 70 distributors operating over 140 distribution centers serving all 50 states, the Group’s combined sales volume exceeds $6 billion through its member distributors and an alliance with the VAL-TEST Group.

About Todd Taber

Todd Taber
Todd is trends editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. He graduated from Indiana University where he majored in journalism and French. Throughout his career, he has aimed to highlight small businesses and their community value. He joined NRHA in 2017.

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