Scheduled buying highlights PRO Group conference

Manufacturers and distributors met during the annual Group Merchandising Conference hosted by PRO Group June 18 to 21 at the Embassy Suites Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park. This is the sixth year distributors from Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Val-Test have participated.

As in previous years, the highlight of the conference revolved around the 1,042 scheduled private 30-minute buyer/vendor appointments over the course of two days. Attendees included 140 distributor and manufacturer companies. The conference format featured demos in private suites, allowing attendees time to discuss and showcase products.

Shari Kalbach, managing director of PRO Group, said the one-on-one meetings allow both buyers and sellers “to discuss issues with the decision-makers, as well as take advantage of the show specials that each vendor offers. Events like the GMC are important in the current economy, as a lot of business is conducted over a short period of time, and companies are able to see a return on their investment immediately.”

The conference kicked off with PRO Group merchandise managers and distributor buyers discussing trends, new products and opportunities that exist in their areas. After social and networking events, the week concluded with the PRO Hardware merchandise committee hearing target vendor presentations from PRO key suppliers and sharing best practices.

In distributor meetings, PRO also introduced drop-ship exclusives on the PRO Group extranet, including products in the candy, clothing, home decor and pet categories, which retailers have requested. Weather was a factor across the United States for lawn and garden with a dry, warm winter leading to an early spring. Green goods and nursery supplies were big sellers this spring with trends including smaller, easier-to-maintain gardens.

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