Hardlines Distribution Alliance (HDA) hosted the first ever Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) in the month of May. The event brought together hundreds of distributors and vendors to the Embassy Suites Atlanta Buckhead to take advantage of one of the most interactive conference formats in the industry.
With requests from both distributor members and vendor partners, the spring timeline allowed all attendees more time to plan and strategize for the remainder of 2023 and fall markets.
“A successful Group Merchandising Conference often leads to fall distributor show placement, and the former June time frame did not leave enough time to coordinate with fall events,” says Steve Synnott, CEO at HDA. “The move resulted in better vendor and distributor registration, and the feedback on the quality of the content of the meetings is the best we have ever experienced.”
On Monday evening, all attendees were treated to the New Vendor Showcase and Welcome Cocktail Reception. Also new this year, the reception took place on the second floor where new vendor suites had already been set up to showcase merchandise, program information and displays to provide even more exposure to member distributors. The connections made during this reception allowed new vendors additional networking opportunities and the chance to maximize productive meetings during the remainder of the GMC.
“The conference meetings and gatherings were excellent,” says HB Long, sales manager with Florida Hardware. “The conference was run extremely well and provided many options for adding new vendors and stocking products in our warehouse.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, 1,575 pre-scheduled, private meetings took place between distributors and vendors. With the opportunity to display products, brochures and digital resources in each suite, manufacturers could count on uninterrupted face-to-face interactions with dozens of distributor members at one venue. This format eliminates the risk of manning a booth with very little interaction and is designed to maximize ROI. In addition, the format allows existing group manufacturers to meet with new or existing customers and touch base on program specifics over a short time period.
“In just two days, we were able to accomplish what would have taken months of separate meetings in many different parts of the country,” says Oscar Vigliano, sales manager with Mr. Brands. “Being new members of HDA, we are very happy and excited about becoming a new vendor to the distributors with whom we met. This was a very well-organized conference, and it delivered what I was expecting—quality meetings with quality distributors.”
In addition to the meetings, guests were also treated to a Tuesday evening reception featuring dinner and cocktails and a farewell reception Wednesday evening. These receptions provide additional networking opportunities in a more social setting outside the scheduled meetings. Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood also provided a wide variety of restaurants near the hotel, making it easy for all attendees to network over a meal.
“Our company relies on this event with HDA providing the vetting, vendors and venue to help us get the ball rolling with products and partnerships that will lead to sales,” says Damian Nicholson, merchandise manager at Bostwick-Braun Co.