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PRO Group gets down to business in Atlanta

Merchandising conference includes 32 member distributors meeting with 86 vendor partners.

BY HBSDealer Staff

Atlanta was the scene for PRO Group, Inc.’s recent Group Merchandising Conference.

Held at the Embassy Suites Centennial Olympic Park, the conference drew 32 member distributors and 86 vendor partners for more than 1,600, 30-minute scheduled appointments. Distributors and and vendors were able to forge new business relationships by discussing new products, taking advantage of conference specials and connecting at the numerous networking events, according to ProGroup.

“The GMC provides manufacturers with a venue to build relationships or reconnect with buyers from PRO Group member distributors from across the country,” said Shari Kalbach, vp at PRO Group. “The one-on-one meetings allow time for decision makers to explore the benefits and features of each supplier’s product offering.”

With meetings held in private suites, manufacturers were able to display new product lines and tailor show specials to the distributor buyer audience. It also allowed buyers firsthand interaction with products and to gain a deep knowledge of those product lines and promotional pricing.

First time attendee Sean Lorden, president at Rafferty Wholesale mentioned the conference will open countless opportunities for his business. “I attended my first PRO Group GMC and what a game changer. The representatives I met from various organizations were very professional and enlightening as to what their companies’ offerings were. I truly believe joining PRO Group will open up more business opportunities than I could have imagined.”

In addition to the scheduled meetings, manufacturers and distributors had the opportunity to meet at the networking and farewell receptions in an informal setting. This allowed members to touch base even if they did not have a scheduled appointment.

“The mix of both business and social interaction across such a large and regionally dispersed array of distributor members for the time and expense of a single trip makes PRO Group’s GMC a great value for our business,” said Darrin Purcell, president and CEO at Century Drill and Tool.

The meeting closed with a PRO Hardware Merchandise Committee Meeting where distributors shared which programs represented the best opportunities for growth.

“The energy that was felt during this year’s GMC will hopefully translate into increased sales at the distributors’ fall shows and retailers will have new and exciting products to promote to their customers,” said Kalbach.

PRO Group, Inc. is a multidivisional international merchandising and marketing organization with corporate headquarters in Denver, Colo. The company’s operating units include PRO Hardware, GardenMaster, FARM MART and GOLDEN-LINK. With more than 79 distributors operating over 140 distribution centers serving all 50 states, the Group’s combined sales volume exceeds $6 billion through its member distributors and an alliance with the VAL-TEST Group.

 

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New COO for ABC Supply

Veteran Mike Jost will continue to oversee ABC Supply’s marketing and merchandising groups, as well as its real estate, education, fleet and safety.

BY HBSDealer Staff

ABC Supply reported that Mike Jost, vice president of operations, has been appointed chief operating officer.

In his new role as COO, Jost will be responsible for the performance of ABC Supply branches across the country. His operations teams will also support L&W Supply branches, which were acquired by ABC Supply in 2016. Based in Chicago, L&W operates 158 branches in 35 states.

Jost will also continue to oversee ABC Supply’s marketing and merchandising groups, as well as its real estate, education, fleet and safety, and national business development teams, the company said.

Jost started in the industry in 1998 as a salesperson for Washington Roofing Products in Alexandria, Va. He joined ABC Supply in 2002, when it purchased Washington Roofing as part of the Cameron Ashley acquisition. Jost spent several years as a branch manager and managing partner, 3 years on ABC’s northeast regional team, and was the district manager for ABC’s Mid-Atlantic District prior to his promotion to vice president of operations in November of 2013.

“Mike has been an integral part of ABC’s growth over the last several years. He and his teams have worked on initiatives that have further strengthened our position as the distributor of choice in our industry,” said CEO Keith Rozolis. “Mike’s field perspective, marketing and merchandising acumen, and passion for our business, combined with his high energy and ‘people first’ focus, will serve him well in his new role.”

Based in Beloit, Wis., ABC Supply Co. operates more than 700 locations across the United States, with a focus on distributing roofing and building materials to pro builder customers.

 

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Eye on Retail: The Container Store unveils tech-savvy ‘next-generation’ store

BY Marianne Wilson

The Container Store has debuted a new architectural design with technology, an updated merchandising strategy and more personalized services.

The home storage and organization products retailer revamped its Dallas flagship to its “next-generation” concept, which is designed to make it easier for customers to take care of their storage and organization needs. The concept resulted from consumer research conducted in partnership by the Container Store, FRCH Design Worldwide and digital innovation agency MJD. The research revealed that customers’ biggest hurdle in beginning a project was feeling overwhelmed.

The retailer said the revamped flagship will serve as a “test and learn environment” to determine elements for eventual rollout to new and existing Container Store locations.

The store features 18 digital screens to support customers as they shop. They feature everything from inspiration to an interactive design tool to a digital experience called “The Organization Studio,” which allows customers to upload a photo or video of their organizational challenge online, describe the challenge, and set up an in-store appointment to meet with a store expert. The associate will develop a personalized solution for the customer customer free of charge and with no purchase commitment.

“We know that countless retailers are building digital tools and using them to innovate the shopping experience, but combining the human element with technology is when things really get powerful,” said Val Richardson, VP of real estate at The Container Store. “The Organization Studio offers the convenience of an online experience and marries it with a personalized in-store engagement that offers a curated solution created by a real person.

The new architectural design divides the store into manageable areas that pull the customer through the space and make it easier to navigate. Ceilings were lowered to make the store more inviting, rows of shelving were removed to improve sight lines, and new flooring and enhanced lighting was installed to create a more approachable and comfortable environment.

The flagship design positions Container Store’s popular “custom closets” offering as a focal point, creating a “Custom Closets Studio” destination with closet vignettes that allow customers to visualize possibilities at every price point. It also features a lounge and seating area where customers can review a design book and gather ideas for their own spaces. There are also interactive screens that show more examples of “real” closet spaces for customers.

In addition to the closet studio, the store features merchandise set-ups that are reflective of real home spaces—from kitchens to offices—that allow shoppers to get a sense of how products might work in a real-life setting. Small and large project solutions are highlighted throughout the store to show how one might begin a project or maximize their space in any area they had not yet considered organizing.

“Our purpose as a brand is to help our customers accomplish their projects, maximize their space and make the most of their home,” said Melissa Collins, chief marketing officer for The Container Store. “ In order to help them achieve those goals you’ll see a focus across all of our channels on making it easier to find the solutions they want and need.”

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