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Tough talk at HTF

Memphis, Tenn. The Hardlines Technology Forum, held here April 21 to 24, offered in-depth seminars on data synchronization, supply chain visibility and other essential topics for tech-savvy manufacturers. But this year’s conference, organized by the American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA), added a new feature that appealed to suppliers of every stripe: “How to Do Business with [insert retailer].”

Do it Best went first, with a two-hour session on its new vendor portal, vendor scorecards, market enhancements and efforts to develop a consistent set of product attributes for all its warehouse items. The Fort Wayne, Ind., co-op brought six executives to the event, and three of them gave presentations and answered questions during “How to do Business with Do it Best.”

One of the executives was divisional merchandise manger Dave Cole, who came from the business side of Do it Best. After asking for a show of hands, Cole noted that many of the conference attendees worked in non-IT positions. The AHMA made an effort to recruit these individuals this year by adding a new track aimed at “business side professionals” who work in tandem with EDI and logistics staff.

“How to do Business with Lowe’s” was a primer on the basics of setting up new items, sending advanced shipping notices and ironing out the kinks in invoices and purchase orders. An all-female team from Lowe’s, clad in red shirts and blacks pants, represented EDI/vendor support, electronic commerce, product information, accounting and PCM initiatives. They responded to specific inquiries and dispensed advice, although the latter often ended with a visit to LowesLink.com. The team also included Michelle Adams, director of merchandising operations and planning for Lowe’s.

The conference continues today with more educational sessions, “How to Do Business with True Value” and the retail panel presentation. This year’s panel includes representatives from Do it Best, True Value, Lowe’s and Orgill. Other retailers who attended the conference include Home Depot and Mitre 10, the Australian home improvement chain.

Patrick Wischmeier, vp-information technology at Oatey Co., used one of the many networking breaks to get face time with Howard White, Home Depot’s manager of sourcing and vendor management. “Our biggest customers are Home Depot and Lowe’s, and they’re both here,” Wischmeier said. “I’m very interested in what their agenda is for the next year.”

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