Besides promoting the wholesaler message, the intent of having larger buying group presence at the SSWA conference is also to provide a two-way exchange of information. Wholesalers want to hear how they can service distributors better. For instance, in the case of the aforementioned example of exploring into new vertical markets, if buying groups have multiple members that want to branch out into foodservice, they can relay this information to wholesalers and suggest they carry lines of cutlery, tableware and other supplies.

Buying groups can also use the show as a way to learn about current wholesaling trends in general, or the specific strategies of a few players.

“By attending this meeting, it will help me better understand the current state of affairs of wholesaling in our industry and how it affects our members,” says Brian Slack, vice president of sales for Canton, Mass.-based Pro-Link, (also one of the buying groups attending SSWA).

The buying groups interviewed for this article indicated that they work directly with a couple wholesalers that support their organization. Through the networking at SSWA, buying group executives can ensure that these wholesalers offer the best benefits to their members. Or, buying group executives may discover there are better partners in the marketplace. While at the show they have the ability to research and find the wholesaler that provides the best overall value to members.

Having access to a strong wholesaler (or two) would be a significant selling point for a buying group when attracting new members. If working with a wholesaler is the right solution to a member’s problem, the buying group can play matchmaker and align its member with the wholesaler that best meets the need.

“We have programs with wholesalers and it fills a need for our members,” says Slack.

In addition, some buying groups offer members access to a private label line of products. Allowing a wholesaler access to this line (to only sell to buying group members) guarantees that distributors always have the products available.

“A lot of times, if distributors are out of their private label, they have to substitute with another item because they are in between orders on their label,” says Quay.

However, if wholesalers carry the private label line, buying group members can buy products as-needed and never run out of stock.

A closer relationship between buying groups and wholesalers may also result in benefits for members not given to other distributors.

“Whenever you have an opportunity for larger exposure, there are considerations made,” says Heeren.

At this time, SSWA is just expanding the number of buying groups allowed to attend the conference and not opening membership to these organizations. That may change in the future, but for now, buying group executives are content with the decision. Both NISSCO and Pro-Link were unsure if they’d join if allowed.

The SSWA conference will be in progress as this issue goes to press. Time will tell if this change proved successful in its initial test and how buying groups will capitalize on this new opportunity.

Whether this leads to new business for SSWA members also remains to be seen. For now, the association is happy just for the chance to communicate with more members of the supply chain.

“Whether buying groups partner with one wholesaler or just put the whole mix out there and say, ‘You choose who you want to do business with,’ that’s not our primary concern,” says Frendt. “But certainly, just to enhance the relationship is valuable.”  

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Benefits Of Janitorial Supply Wholesalers