Unlike previous conferences where a single buying group executive would sit on a panel discussion, the new format is much more interactive. Part of the Sanitary Supply Wholesaling Association conference includes one-on-one meetings. Buying groups will now have their own table and have an opportunity to meet individually with manufacturers and janitorial supply wholesalers.

“It’s a way buying groups can interact one-on-one with wholesalers or manufacturers so they get an understanding of a [manufacturer’s] wholesale strategy and what a positive impact it could be for their business,” says Mark Lyle, executive director, RDA Advantage, Littleton, Colo. “It’s also an opportunity to listen to buying groups’ suggestions on ways manufacturers and wholesalers can better service their member needs as well.”

For distributors, wholesalers provide access to a variety of products and, perhaps most importantly, at any amount of supply. Manufacturers have high order minimums, often at numbers that don’t make financial sense for distributors. Buying too much of a product can lead to dead stock in the warehouse. But, purchasing through a wholesaler allows distributors to buy only the product they need and as they need it. This way, money can be kept in the cash flow rather than tied up as warehouse stock.

“For many of my distributor members, their inventory is literally their bank account,” says Mark Bozich, president of NISSCO, Dulles, Va. (one of the two buying groups attending).

Buying products on an as-needed basis is useful for specialty products only bought by a handful of customers. It’s also a great strategy for testing out new markets. Instead of committing to a line of foodservice disposables, office supplies or MRO products, distributors can rely on wholesalers to supply this need.

“By using a wholesaler, distributors can expand into new markets without risking inventory,” says Bozich.

Despite these obvious benefits, janitorial supply wholesalers aren’t always the go-to solution for distributors. And the distributors who do use wholesalers don’t always take advantage of every service.

“If you look at other industries, the embracing of wholesaling is much more significant than it is in our industry,” says Jeff Heeren, senior vice president, R.J. Schinner Co., Inc., Menomonee Falls, Wis. “The efficiencies that come with wholesaling are undeniable. As end users are asking distributors to increase their bundles and as bankers are asking distributors to reduce inventory levels, wholesalers are a natural fit.”

Changing the format of the SSWA conference is an opportunity for wholesaler members to better market their benefits to distributors and clarify any confusion there may be in the marketplace.

“I think the more information wholesalers make available to the buying groups, it will help them understand how buying from wholesalers can help them,” says Steve Quay, general manager and vice president, Sheppard Redistribution Inc., Oaks, Pa.

Reaching out to buying groups is an easy way to broadcast the benefits of janitorial supply wholesalers to a significant number of distributors at once.

“With the number of distributor customers that are in buying groups, we see it as a way to further our message with regard to what wholesalers bring to the supply chain,” says Lyle.

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