STAFDA sees industry strength

Nashville, Tenn. At the 31st annual convention of the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA), competition and costs of doing business emerged as big themes. The event’s trade show at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel featured 968 booths, a new STAFDA record.

Greg Drouillard, president of STAFDA, encouraged members to “welcome the competition” during his state of the industry report Monday in Nashville.

“News in construction isn’t all bad,” said Drouillard, owner of Target Building Materials, of Windsor, Ontario. Case in point: During the first eight months of the year, non-residential building in the United States was running 3 percent ahead of last year.

“The market for renovation is strong,” he said. “There are still plenty of opportunities for STAFDA members, although you may need to shift your sales emphasis. That won’t be the first time for most of us, and we are fortunate to have that flexibility.”

These are competitive times for STAFDA distributors, and controlling costs will play a major role in success -- especially delivery costs. STAFDA’s 2007 distributor profile report showed only 27 percent of distributors enforce a minimum delivery charge, and the average is just $25. Meanwhile, it’s taking longer to reach customers.

“It’s no longer possible for distributors to absorb freight costs, so we need to seriously consider controlling some or all of these costs with pricing strategies,” said Drouillard. Options include a “real” minimum delivery charge, he said, a fuel surcharge or some offsetting savings the customer can earn by picking up his order.

Attendance was another storyline here in Nashville. There were 968 booths at the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association, up from 933 last year. About 21 percent of those booths are new companies, “plenty of new vendors and new products,” said Georgia Foley, STAFDA executive director.

Because of fewer attendees per company, the overall attendance figure of 5,300 pre-registered attendees was down from the previous year’s record showing in Las Vegas. “Still this will easily be our second largest convention,” said Foley.

Next year the STAFDA convention and trade show is heading to Denver. The organization changed gears for 2009 -- moving to Atlanta, instead of New Orleans, which carried concerns about a slower than expected recovery, including high crime rate, according to Foley. The dates for the 2009 Atlanta show will not change from the previously scheduled Nov. 8 to 10.

Also on Monday morning, keynote speaker Chris Gardner, whose rags-to-riches life story was made into the hit movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” received a standing ovation from the general session audience for his advocacy of fatherhood and family values.

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