President and CEO
Distribution America president and CEO Dave Christmas oversees a network of six distributor members who in turn serve retailers across North America with extensive inventory and unique marketing programs. Learn more about the strategic advantages Christmas attributes to the company’s structure, how members are leveraging technology to help retailers and what the future holds for Distribution America’s six member distributors.
Hardware Retailing (HR): What changes have occurred within Distribution America in the past few years?
Dave Christmas (DC): The biggest change is that our members and the Distribution America office are doing more together than we did five years ago. We’re making large group buys together to take advantage of volume discounts. We’re also taking a renewed focus on consolidating our vendors. Our advertising and marketing offering is far more diverse than it was five years ago. We offer social media, website and email programs to retailers to help them on the digital front.
HR: In your opinion, what are some of the challenges facing the independent home improvement industry?
DC: As big boxes and Amazon continue to extend their reach across the marketplace, they give consumers new ways to shop. So the imperative for Distribution America is to do all we can to help independents grow their relevance in their own marketplace.
Everything we do is done with the goal of helping retailers. We encourage our members to take advantage of training programs. We also offer our AdStudio software, which allows retailers to develop traditional print promotions like circulars, flyers and shelf talkers. The materials can be customized for their markets and easily converted to digital formats.
HR: How important is it that the six Distribution America members retain a specific identity?
DC: It’s very important to Distribution America and the members. The most significant thing the company affords its members is the ability to keep their own identity. It’s important to retain a regional focus and combine it with our national buying power as a group. About 10 years ago, we reorganized our business and took steps to help retailers control their own marketing initiatives. We decentralized and aimed to save money, freeing up funds to allow our members to be more effective marketing in their individual regions, and that’s worked very well for our retailers.
HR: What role does technology play within your organization?
DC: Technology plays a huge role in Distribution America’s marketing and advertising programs. Technology also powers our central payment system, which streamlines the payables and receivables between our members and the vendors.
We also have a sophisticated demographic software tool that helps members and retailers identify places where they might want to open new stores or adjust their product assortment. The software analyzes the estimated potential of specific regions and looks at the number of households, population age, their income and more to help retailers make decisions about the store location and merchandise mix.
HR: Distribution America is planning to consolidate its vendors. How will that improve the company?
DC: A little over a year ago, we got together to specifically discuss vendor consolidation. One of the takeaways is that we all want and need to consolidate vendor purchases in many categories. So we started a member-driven line review process. We have 100 percent assurance that our members will abide by what’s decided in the line review. The members will vote on which vendors we keep and eliminate. The goal is to be more effective by doing business with fewer vendors. This plan reduces cost and also simplifies accounts payable, warehouse line picking and all other vendor-specific activities.
By partnering with larger and fewer vendors, we can develop more effective programs. We can also help increase sales by having a retailer feature a single vendor, as opposed to multiple vendors for one product line. This focus improves the look of stores, which can lead to additional purchases.
HR: What does the future hold for Distribution America?
DC: We’ve had so much success by doing more together. We’re continuing that and expanding member interactions to discuss best practices in all aspects. We also want to stay on the forefront of technology. We feel it’s our job to develop the latest technology advances for members and retailers.
We’ve also recently changed our model to be open to more niche distributors that might be out there and looking to take advantage of the programs and pricing models Distribution America has to offer.