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Taking the show online

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Darrell Wabschall is a man on a mission.

The founder and CEO of the Vendor Center, the business-to-business, password-protected Web service, believes that there is a better way to efficiently connect retailer buyers with vendors and their products.

Brewing for the past six years, the idea for Vendor Center started out as an online trade show concept and soon morphed into something more permanent. “This is information that is valuable to retailers every day, not just once or twice a year,” he said. “It’s a 21st century solution that surprisingly hasn’t been adopted yet.”

Wabschall, a former home product marketer on the trade show circuit, said the germ of his idea was born at a hardware market, when a retail customer explained that she was going to go sightseeing instead of visiting Wabschall’s booth.

“That’s when it hit me,” he said. “I just busted a gut to get a booth, and a potential customer was going sightseeing. It’s a 1960s business model, masquerading as an up-to-date model,” he said.

There are those who disagree. And they’re quick to point out that the face-to-face interaction and walk-up-and-touch-it features of the current market system will never lose their appeal.

Wabschall believes the Vendor Center can find a role as a supplement to the existing go-to-market system, providing 24/7 information and interaction.

The Vendor Center is a system open to retailers for free. Revenue is generated from fees from participating vendors. “I like to use the analogy that it’s Wikipedia meets You-Tube meets Amazon.com,” Wabschall said. “It’s everything a vendor could possibly want a retailer to know about their product.”

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Weiman cleans up nicely

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A proliferation of specialty surfaces in the house — from stainless steel appliances to granite countertops to any number of glowing rectangles — means one thing: more specialty cleaners.

That’s the attitude at Gurnee, Ill.-based Weiman Products, which last month acquired several brands formerly in The Homax Group.

Mass merchants dominate cleaning product sales, but home improvement stores have an opportunity in the cleaning aisle, especially as the products continue to specialize, according to Weiman CEO Carl DeMasi.

“The overall market continues to grow, particularly the specialty cleaning sector,” he said. “Consumers are looking for advice, and the hardware store can provide that.”

Under the deal, Goo Gone, Magic, Stone Care International, OOPS! Paint Remover and Gonzo join the Weiman family of products, including the market-leading Weiman Cook Top Cleaner.

The company declined to reveal the terms of the deal. But DeMasi was open about the selling proposition of a specialty cleaning product. “They have to work,” he said. “Quality is No. 1. You need innovation. Not just another ‘me, too.’ ”

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Cold: It’s for the birds

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The recent cold snap (is it over yet?) led to a 55% increase in sales of wild bird seed, according to Global Harvest Foods, manufacturer of Audubon Park wild bird products.

It goes to show that seasonality is a big driver of seed and feed. “When temperatures become extreme, consumers get concerned about the ability of our wild animals to find food and shelter,” said Ed Mills, Global Harvest co-founder and president.

According to the Wild Bird Feed Industry Research Foundation’s latest study, 40.5 million U.S. households buy wild bird seed. And according to a Wild Bird Feeding Industry Research Foundation survey of 3,200 consumers, home improvement stores (including big boxes and independents) rank second in channel share.

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