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.
“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.