PRO Group Hosts the First Ever Virtual Group Merchandising Conference
Denver (June 29, 2020) – In response to the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, PRO Group, Inc. hosted the first ever virtual Group Merchandising Conference using the Zoom platform. On June 22-24, 40 PRO Group member distributors and 63 vendor attendees participated in 1,140 scheduled, one-on-one appointments through the breakout rooms function available on the Zoom platform. Through these individual appointments, attendees were able to discuss new products, conference specials, and program details and future needs as they would have done meeting in person in Atlanta.
“It is amazing that PRO was positioned to facilitate and complete Zoom training for about 200 individuals in the past 60 days or so to execute timely and effective individual one-on-one meetings between distributor buyers and manufacture sellers,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group. “I am certain the Virtual GMC will pay big dividends over the balance of 2020 to PRO Group member distributors and manufacturers.”
In addition to the one-on-one appointments, all attendees had to opportunity to explore the products offered by new vendor partners and attend a general session with The Farnsworth Group in the two weeks leading up to their scheduled appointments. The new product preview was also hosted using the Zoom platform and allowed new vendors to introduce themselves and give a brief presentation of the products they would be showcasing at the GMC. Distributor attendees were able to request product samples from the manufacturers so they could view products up close during their individual meetings.
“In a year of cancelled events and uncertainty, this event allowed us to find new ideas, items and vendors which was invaluable for planning our upcoming show,” said Mike Dawson, Retail Division Manager at Horizon Distribution. “Congratulations to the PRO team for breaking paradigms to provide real value to both distributors and manufacturers in a challenging year.”
The general session was hosted by Grant Farnsworth, Director of Business Strategy with The Farnsworth Group, who has been surveying professionals and DIYers in the hardware industry to determine the effects COVID-19 has had on home improvement project behaviors. During the session, Grant spoke on the results of those surveys, the impact of projects started or stopped during the pandemic and the role of online vs. in-store purchases. He also touched on DIY and contractor concerns about the future and actions manufacturers and suppliers need to think about taking now. Those results impacted how all attendees approached their one-on-one meetings during the conference.
“I was very impressed with how well PRO turned a bad situation into a very positive experience for both vendors and distributors,” said John Campbell, National Account Executive with Forney Industries. “The efficiency of the Zoom meetings is a testament to how well PRO prepared for this unique situation. I think the conference was a big success!”
PRO Group Zooms Ahead with a Virtual Group Merchandising Conference
Denver (4/10/2020) – As COVID-19 continues to have a profound effect on the hardware industry, PRO Group, Inc. is pleased to announce that its Group Merchandising Conference will move to a digital format using the Zoom platform. Originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, the digital format will still allow partner manufacturers and distributor members the opportunity to meet for one-on-one, pre-scheduled meetings all from the safety of their home or office. In each appointment, manufacturers are given the opportunity to present products, pricing and program information to distributor buyers without any distraction. This will allow distributors to gain a deeper understanding of individual products and entire lines in one sitting.
With restrictions on travel and large gatherings in place for many coming weeks, PRO Group’s top priority is ensuring the safety and health of all business partners and members. However, the PRO Group team remains dedicated to providing a valuable platform for our Distributor Members and Vendor Partners to forge lasting business relationships and evaluate new business opportunities through product and merchandising presentations.
“Distributor buyers told us the Group Merchandising Conference is a vital resource to discover new products, programs and suppliers, so we partnered with Zoom to create an amazing virtual meeting experience that rivals being face-to-face,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group. “We are excited to showcase this technology for the benefit of all PRO Group Member Distributors and Manufacturers.”
In the coming weeks, PRO Group staff will spend time with each attending Manufacturer and Distributor to ensure they are comfortable and confident in using the Zoom platform well before the event June 22-24. With the ability to record video, share screens and chat with Zoom, PRO Group staff is certain that the virtual format will allow Distributor Members and Partner Manufacturers to accomplish all that they would in a physical meeting, minus shaking hands.
Building Partnerships: PRO Group Hosts Annual Group Merchandising Conference
Denver (June 25, 2019) – On June 17, dozens of member distributors and vendor partners descended on the Embassy Suites Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta for PRO Group, Inc.’s annual Group Merchandising Conference. Over the next two days, 40 distributor and 75 manufacturer attendees met in 1,572 scheduled appointments to discuss new product and conference specials, work out details of programs and build partnerships at several networking events. They were also treated to a general session hosted by Dan Tratensek, the executive vice president with the North American Retail Hardware Association and publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine.
During this general session, Tratensek spoke on ‘A Team Effort: How Independent Retailers are Competing in the Age of Amazon (and how YOU can help!)’. He examined how retailers are responding to new retail realities that have emerged in the Amazon age and the most important things manufacturers and distributors can do to help independent retailers succeed. After this general session and a welcome reception that evening, attendees got down to business Tuesday morning by delving into product assortments, show pricing and program details with manufacturers from multiple categories.
“The GMC continues to deliver outstanding returns for member distributor buyers and group suppliers. Product placement that occurs as a direct result of the GMC will propel sales throughout the balance of 2019 and beyond,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group. “PRO is delighted and proud to facilitate the GMC for the benefit of our key suppliers and wholesale distributor customers.”
In each appointment, manufacturers are given the opportunity to present products, pricing and program information to distributor buyers without any distraction. This allowed distributors to gain a deeper understanding of individual products and entire lines in one sitting. With the many networking events, such as luncheons and receptions, manufacturers also had the opportunity to touch base with even more members in a more social setting.
“The PRO Group GMC is a great event with enough time in meetings to have meaningful conversations and develop business opportunities in just a few days. Those meetings could have otherwise taken months of phone calls and travel to accomplish the same thing,” said Jim Depolo, product manager at VP Racing Fuels.
Distributor attendees were also able to touch base with existing manufacturers to plan for future program needs and get a preview of upcoming products. The GMC closed with the PRO Hardware Merchandise Committee Meeting where distributors shared which programs were of most interest to them.
“This is by far the best conference I have attended so far,” said Matt Speer, purchasing agent with Becknell Wholesale. “The meeting format was excellent and the one-on-one attention from the manufacturers was very effective.”
Forging New Business: PRO Group Hosts Its Annual Group Merchandising Conference
Denver (June 26, 2018) – From June 18-20, 32 member distributors and 86 vendor partners converged on Atlanta at the Embassy Suites Centennial Olympic Park for PRO Group, Inc.’s annual Group Merchandising Conference. In over 1600, 30-minute scheduled appointments, distributors 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.
To kick off the conference, distributor members were given the opportunity to meet and update the group on business. On Monday evening, member wholesalers mingled with vendor partners at a welcome reception. Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, distributors had the chance to meet with vendors in private, 30-minute scheduled appointments. It was during these appointments that all group members could build new business relationships, discuss current programs and meet with prospective buyers from multiple different categories.
“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, Vice President at PRO Group, Inc. “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 Creates a Buzz of Energy at the Group Merchandising Conference
Denver, CO (June 27, 2017) – Last week, 42 member distributors had the opportunity to meet with over 95 manufacturers at the mid-year Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) held at the Embassy Suites Chicago O’Hare Rosemont. The conference, which took place from June 19-22, created a high energy environment that made for one of the best conferences hosted by PRO Group.
The conference began with a meeting for member distributors of PRO Group to introduce themselves and a reception where they could meet with each other and manufacturers. Over the next two days, distributors had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with manufacturers in over 2000 30-minute appointments to discuss new products, build new relationships, and discuss current programs.
“New business possibilities were uncovered in partnership with Group Vendors exhibiting at the event, new peer relationships were facilitated and Group growth opportunities were identified during the three-day event,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group. “This event was the first time Reliable Member Distributors came together with PRO Group to make it the most successful event PRO Group has ever produced.”
First time attendee Jeff Clapp, COO of General Hardware Distributors, a former Reliable distributor, appreciated the value of meeting with vendors. “Working together we all win. That was the overwhelming attitude from vendors and distributors alike.”
With each appointment, distributors had a chance to directly connect with individual manufacturers in person to work through any challenges and meet new manufacturers with innovative products they might be interested in.
“I was impressed with the energy and positive vibe from the entire group. The vendor community was as prepared as I have seen them,” said Mike Dawson, Retail Sales Manager at Horizon Distribution. “We had very productive meetings throughout and that should result in numerous growth opportunities for both HDI and many vendors. Our time in Chicago was very productive.”
Manufacturers also got the chance to make new business connections and get their products in front of a large audience. With one-on-one meetings, they were able to effectively address questions and tailor their presentations to their audience.
Roger Woodward, President of Alliance Distribution Partners, commented, “The PRO Group conference was a great investment of our time and resources. The event was very well done and the members were engaged and ready to do business. It was a very cost effective way to reach a number of quality prospects in a short period of time.”
To wrap up the conference, member distributors met to discuss the meetings and product lines in which they were most interested. They were also able to update the group on the progress of business to date.