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.
Sexy novel inspires niche market
We’re not making this up: The steamy, chick-lit best seller “Fifty Shades of Grey” has led to a niche market in at least one hardware store.
According to a segment on WCAU of Philadelphia, Penndel Hardware of Penndel, Pa., is seeing an increase in sales of products and materials used by characters in the novel about a relationship fueled by sadomasochism and bondage.
One of the key items in this niche: soft cotton rope. The store keeps a list of “Fifty Shades of Grey” items behind the counter, according to the report.
Orchard Supply responds to big-box pressure
During San Jose, Calif.-based Orchard Supply Hardware’s first-quarter conference call, CEO Mark Baker was asked about challenges posed by Home Depot, which is Baker’s former employer.
Specifically an analyst brought up Home Depot’s promotional pricing strategies and the implementation of service-boosting program’s at the world’s largest home improvement retailer. “What kind of impact has that had on your expectations of volume?” asked Nick Farwell of the Arbor Group.
Baker, a former chief merchant at Home Depot, credited Home Depot for “doing as well in this current market as we’ll ever expect them.” He added that Orchard is competitive on key items — grills, for instance — that have broad assortments.
Furthermore, surveys indicate the Orchard Supply gets credit from customers as having a higher service component than Home Depot.
However, the comp-store story for the first quarter tilts in favor of Home Depot, which posted positive 5.8% comp-store sales for the first quarter, compared with negative 3.1% for Orchard Supply.
Despite negative comps in the first quarter, Orchard Supply said May has been “solid,” and the company anticipates positive comp-store sales for the full year.
Orchard Supply, currently an all-California retailer, plans to expand to the Pacific Northwest in fiscal 2013, Baker said. “The Pacific Northwest is a large and growing garden market. We view this region as a national extension of Orchard’s strong presence and 80-year history in California,” Baker said.