Press Releases

Hardlines Distribution Alliance Hosts First Ever May GMC

Denver (5/17/2023) – Hardlines Distribution Alliance (HDA) was excited to host the first ever Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) in the month of May. Last week, hundreds of Distributor and Vendor attendees descended on the Embassy Suites Atlanta – Buckhead to take advantage of one of the most interactive conference formats in the industry. With requests from both Distributor members and Vendor partners, the spring timeline will allow all attendees more time to plan and strategize the remainder of 2023 and fall markets.

“A successful GMC meeting often leads to fall distributor show placement and the former June timeframe did not leave enough time to coordinate with fall events,” said Steve Synnott, CEO at HDA. “The move resulted in better vendor and distributor registration and the feedback on the quality of the content of the meetings is the best we have ever experienced.”

On Monday evening, all attendees were treated to the New Vendor Showcase and Welcome Cocktail Reception. Also new this year, the reception took place on the second floor where new vendor suites had already been set up to display merchandise, program information and displays to provide even more exposure to member Distributors. The connections made during this reception allowed new vendors additional networking opportunities and the chance to maximize productive meetings during the remainder of the GMC.

“The conference meetings and gatherings were excellent,” said HB Long, Sales Manager with Florida Hardware. “The conference was run extremely well and provided many options in adding new vendors and stocking products in our warehouse.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 1,575 pre-scheduled, private meetings took place between Distributors and Vendors. With the opportunity to display product, brochures, and digital resources in each suite, manufacturers could count on uninterrupted face-to-face interactions with dozens of Distributor members at one venue. This format eliminates the risk of manning a booth with very little interaction and is designed to maximize ROI. In addition, the format allows existing group manufacturers to meet with new or existing customers and touch base on program specifics over a short time period.

Oscar Vigliano, a Sales Manager with Mr. Brands, commented, “in just two days, we were able to accomplish what would have taken months of separate meetings in many different parts of the country. Being new members of HDA, we are very happy and excited about becoming a new vendor to the distributors with whom we met. This was a very well-organized conference and it delivered what I was expecting: quality meetings with quality distributors.”

In addition to the meetings, guests were also treated to a Tuesday evening reception featuring dinner and cocktails and a farewell reception Wednesday evening. These receptions provide additional networking opportunities outside the scheduled meetings in a more social setting. Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood also provided a wide variety of restaurants near the hotel, making it easy for all attendees to network over a meal.

“Our company relies on this event with HDA providing the vetting, vendors and the venue to help us get the ball rolling with products and partnerships that will lead to sales,” said Damian Nicholson, Merchandise Manager at Bostwick-Braun Co.



Hardlines Distribution Alliance Hosts Its First GMC

Denver (6/30/2022) – After the formation of Hardlines Distribution Alliance (HDA) in April, the organization was thrilled to host its first in-person Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) last week at the Embassy Suites Buckhead in Atlanta, GA. As the first event hosted by HDA, all attendees were provided the opportunity to meet and network with a large group of leading distributors and manufacturers in the industry. Over 1,500 scheduled meetings in hotel suites provided guaranteed one-on-one interactions that allowed manufacturers to display product, discuss program information, and demo new items.

“We were thrilled to host over 30 energetic HDA member distributors who met with scores of exhibiting vendors in the group’s first joint GMC,” said Steve Synnott, Chief Executive Officer at HDA. “We know the conference will result in distributor attendees adding new programs and product lines.”

After a welcome reception Monday evening, meetings kicked off Tuesday and Wednesday. The valuable one-on-one meetings allowed new and existing vendors to meet with 35 HDA member distributors, some of whom were also attending their first GMC. Evening receptions also allowed all attendees to network in a social setting and make connections outside of the scheduled appointments.

“As a first-time attendee, the meeting format that allowed vendors to display products had a great visual impact,” said Sarah Lee, Vice President – Purchasing at Blish-Mize Co. “This was especially beneficial when meeting with potential new vendor partners. Overall, this was a must-attend event.” Tom Richmond, a National Account Manager with Ghost Controls, agreed. “HDA is the preeminent group of distributors and an absolute MUST for manufacturers. Each and every meeting was attended by real decisions makers that came to work. It is an amazing opportunity and shouldn’t be missed.”

The GMC was also a valuable event for new vendors looking to introduce their company and line to the group. New attending vendors had the opportunity to preview their programs and product selection during a virtual new vendor preview on May 17th. Distributor attendees were then able to request meetings with new vendors during the GMC last week.

“The enthusiasm that was shown by the members toward looking at new products and opportunities was very refreshing and appreciated! Well worth attending!” said Robert Greene, VP Consumer Products at Polar Bear Products.

The conference concluded with a farewell reception to give attendees a final opportunity to network with others they may have missed during the scheduled appointments.

“HDA nailed it! Two days of power-packed appointments with top-quality manufacturers from around the world,” said Joel Robinson, Purchasing/Wholesale Manager at Rohrer Seeds. “It
would take months to produce the same results that we achieved in hours. Time is money and this conference checked all the boxes.”



PRO Group Hosts the Second Virtual Group Merchandising Conference

Denver (June 30, 2021) – As the nation and hardlines industry continues to grapple with the lingering effects of the pandemic, PRO Group, Inc. held the second virtual Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) using the Zoom breakout rooms feature on June 21-24. With over 1,300 scheduled one-on-one appointments, attendees enjoyed one of the most interactive virtual formats in the industry and were able to discuss product lines, conference specials and learn more about new program offerings.

“The 2021 GMC facilitated outstanding interaction with member manufacturers and distributor buyers,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group. “The virtual, private meetings via the Zoom platform were an outstanding way to position all attendees for continued success in the remainder of 2021.”

GMC attendees were also treated to a New Vendor Preview on June 3 which allowed new vendor partners to introduce themselves, their company and the product they planned to showcase during their meetings. Distributor buyers were able to request product samples and request meetings with presenting vendors during the GMC. With over 35 new vendor programs, the New Vendor Preview was a valuable resource for Distributor buyers looking to maximize their time during the scheduled meetings.

“We knew there were many distributors out there but finding them was always so challenging. PRO Group not only found them for us but provided a way for us to get their undivided attention for a full 25 minutes. It’s more than we could have asked for,” said Rudy Anderson, General Manager at Skidger, LLC.

In addition, Dan Tratensek with the North American Hardware & Paint Association provided key insights into the impact of the pandemic on consumers during the General Session on June 21. During his presentation, Tratensek covered how the pandemic changed consumer behavior and ten lessons retailers can learn from those changes. These lessons provide a roadmap on how, with some continued flexibility, retailers, manufacturers and distributors can thrive in a new retail environment moving forward.

After the General Session, meetings kicked off on the morning of June 22. With the opportunity to present digitally, manufacturers were able to share videos, presentations, images and other information during their private appointments. This format allowed all attendees to forge business connections over the course of 3 days from the comfort of their home or office.

“My meetings were fast, informative and focused on my interests,” said Tara Fritz, Territory Sales Representative at Faithway Alliance. “With a minimum time investment, I was able to explore multiple opportunities, some of which will yield valuable and profitable partnerships for the future.”

As the industry inches toward a return to in-person events, the virtual format of the GMC continues to facilitate invaluable one-on-one interactions during a time when abundant travel may not be feasible. It is these interactions that will continue to allow Distributor and Vendor partners to expand their business in a challenging economic environment.



2021 Group Merchandising Conference Goes Virtual

Denver (1/12/2021) – In response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, PRO Group Inc. has announced that the 2021 Group Merchandising Conference (GMC) will be a virtual event. After the resounding success of the 2020 virtual GMC, PRO Group will once again utilize the breakout rooms feature of the Zoom platform to facilitate over 1,000 one-on-one meetings between manufacturers and distributor buyers, making it one of the most interactive conferences in the industry.

“We are enthusiastic about building on the success of the 2020 GMC in 2021 with a virtual format that provides all attendees with the opportunity to discover new products and programs for their retail customers,” said Steve Synnott, President and CEO at PRO Group, Inc. “We are confident that the Zoom platform that will be utilized for the 2021 GMC will mirror an in-person conference and provide distributor buyers and vendors with a valuable one-on-one meeting experience.”

In addition to the scheduled one-on-one appointments, attendees will also be treated to a New Vendor Preview which will allow new vendor partners to introduce themselves, their company and the product they plan to showcase during their meetings. Distributor buyers will have the opportunity to request product samples from new vendors in time to have that product in hand by the GMC. And, to enhance the value the GMC brings to all who attend, a general session featuring keynote speaker Dan Tratensek with the North American Hardware and Paint Association will round out the schedule of events.

“In a year of canceled events and uncertainty, this event allowed us to find new ideas, items and vendors which was invaluable for planning our upcoming show. Congratulations to the PRO team for breaking paradigms to provide real value to both distributors and manufacturers in a challenging year,” said Mike Dawson, Retail Division Manager with Horizon Distribution.

PRO Group is confident that the 2021 virtual GMC will provide tangible value to distributor and manufacturer partners as steps are taken to recover from the pandemic. The live, pre-scheduled, one-on-one meetings continue to provide an exceptional investment and deliver much of the same benefit as an in-person event.

“Our GMC Zoom meetings were amazing,” said Lori Crampton, Director of Marketing with Working Concepts, Inc. “What a great way to get in front of your distributors in this time of social distancing. We wanted to back out when this event went virtual. So glad we didn’t!”

Space is limited. Please contact Michele Simes at for registration information. For more general information on the GMC, please visit



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.


For more information, testimonials and pictures of the GMC, visit If you would like information on attending the virtual GMC, please contact Michele Simes at



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.