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In Tucson, a focus on distribution

More than 400 distributors and manufacturers gathered in Tucson, Ariz., for the PRO Group/Distribution America Executive Planning Conference Nov. 15 to 17, which featured 2,834 one-on-one sessions between buyers and sellers in the hardlines industry. The combined conference, which started in 2003 as a cost-savings measure for the two umbrella organizations, has blossomed into a networking and social event, as well as a three-day negotiating summit.

Dave Davis, VP merchandising for Bostwick-Braun of Toledo, Ohio, said he came to the conference with three goals in mind: inventory productivity, margin improvement and assortment planning. The PRO Group distributor, which recently acquired Southern Hardware Co. in West Helena, Ark., has been working to consolidate vendors at both locations.  “As we each meet with vendors we’re able to talk in terms of being a larger company and how that benefits both of us,” Davis said.

Distributors and their suppliers sat at tables at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and discussed new products and program launches, prior-year fill-rates, order turnaround time, promotional effectiveness, return-on-asset performance, new business opportunities and how to gain market share with key customers in 2011.

Lynne Wallis, senior national account manager for Apex Tool Group LLC (formerly Cooper Tools), used the conference to introduce a new line of Wiss HVAC tools and the GearWrench Roto Ratchet -- as well as the company’s new president, John Constantine, who was able to speak to each distributor group separately.

Social functions included a Monday Night Tailgate party sponsored by the National Hardware Show and an annual awards ceremony recognizing distributors and manufacturers.

Distribution America, the Charlotte, N.C.-based buying and marketing organization, gave out three member awards: Outstanding Sales Growth went to House-Hasson Hardware; Outstanding Inventory Management was received by Handy Hardware; and Blish-Mize was awarded the Soaring Eagle Member Partnership Award.

The PRO Group, a marketing and merchandising organization headquartered in Denver, gave Bostwick-Braun its Distributor of the Year award. CC Distributors Inc. received the Merchandising Distributor of the Year distinction, and Wallace Hardware was the FARM MART Distributor of the Year.

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