The Equity Plumbing buying group has, as the old saying goes, the best of both worlds.

The group, which serves the commercial, residential showroom, industrial/PVF, institutional and government/municipality market segments, added 14 new distributors to the group to boost its total membership to 417 distributors with 589 locations. Equity distributor members have a collective purchasing power approaching
$2 billion annually and year-to-date volume is tracking 9% above 2016 numbers, Equity President and CEO Matt Roos tells Supply House Times.

And Equity continues to supplement that growth with forward-thinking programs and initiatives to best help its members and their customers win business.

On that front, with the direction and guidance of its Distributor Advisory Committee, the buying group recently expanded into the decorative plumbing hardware space. Equity members run 100 plumbing showroom locations.

“Our objective is to better serve the needs and aspirations of our showroom locations by fostering partnerships with industry-leading suppliers of decorative plumbing hardware,” Equity Vice President of Marketing and Supplier Relations Ted Havel says.

Equity recently was accepted into the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association. “DPHA offers many programs and extensive training resources all designed to help improve business and provide competitive advantages for plumbing showrooms,” Havel adds.

Havel reports the group’s Equity to the Maxx web-based metrics tool continues to thrive. “It evaluates the membership’s purchases from non-Equity suppliers,” he says. “With this information, we can determine market share for Equity suppliers, guide Equity suppliers on new business opportunities by converting purchases from non-approved suppliers and provide members with an increased earnings estimate based on converting purchase volume to Equity suppliers.”

The group’s GainShare program is designed to enhance the level of engagement among Equity members and suppliers. Members develop joint marketing plans with suppliers to set attainable stretch purchasing goals, Havel explains.

“Members are encouraged to use the GainShare program as an opportunity to shift purchase from non-Equity suppliers to Equity suppliers,” he adds.

Havel notes each completed and approved GainShare plan results in an annual member’s purchase goal that can be tracked by both parties by accessing a GainShare status report located on the buying group’s website.

“When the goal is achieved, the member earns additional rebate dollars and the supplier achieves or exceeds its sales goal with that particular member,” Havel states. “Our objective is to provide our supplier partners with above-average market growth.”

Equity’s Gold/Platinum program also continues to provide member benefits. The program acknowledges and rewards Equity members that achieve growth with Equity suppliers and participate fully and effectively in Equity marketing resources. The program is measured on a calendar year and members earn points for activities and results based on criteria that includes attending the group’s annual meeting Dec. 5-7 in New Orleans; increasing purchases with Equity suppliers; converting purchases from non-Equity suppliers to Equity suppliers; participating in the GainShare program and achieving purchase goals; and enrolling and completing training courses on Equity University.

Havel notes Equity members that achieve Platinum status earn a $1,500 bonus payout, while Gold status earns a $500 bonus and Silver status earns a $250 bonus.


Member feedback

Roos says across much of the country the majority of Equity members are reporting moderate growth. “Prior to Hurricane Harvey, members in Texas reported healthy growth,” he says. “In particular, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area continues to record strong double-digit growth. Residential business has been on the uptick for much of the Western half of the country, with solid growth numbers from California to Arizona.”

Looking ahead, Havel notes the group will continue to follow its mission statement of “Provide a combination of marketing solutions and superior returns to our member distributors while delivering above-average annual market growth to our preferred suppliers.”

That being said, Havel says there are a number of specific goals in place moving forward designed to take the buying group to the next level.

“We’re going to continue to develop and offer innovative and effective marketing programs and resources that drive sales growth, build market share and increase profits for both our members and suppliers,” he says. “We are going to be at the forefront with innovative and cost-effective technology solutions to confront the ever-changing and challenging competitive landscape for wholesale distribution.”

Havel notes Equity recently introduced the Equity e-branch content management kit that provides members with tools and resources to support the development of a best-in-class web store.

“It’s a cost-effective solution for Equity members to offer a robust web-store experience to their customers that want to select and purchase products on a website or mobile platform,” he says.

Roos predicts consolidation will continue “and in our opinion accelerate in the industry over the next several years,” he says.

Equity offers a confidential buyer/seller introduction service called Equity First. “When a member may be interested in selling their business, we want them to look to one of their fellow Equity members first,” Roos explains. “Since its inception in 2016, we have successfully matched several distributors that remain in the organization today.”


Annual meeting

Havel says the buying group is expecting a record turnout for its Dec. 5-7 annual meeting at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans with more than 400 individual attendees, including a 30% spike in member attendance.

“Networking is a cornerstone attribute of our meeting,” he says. “Strengthening existing relationships, establishing new ones and exploring mutual opportunities that lead to increased sales and profits are fundamental benefits gained by all attendees.”

Equity members will take part once again in peer-networking sessions where member distributors of similar size and business mix meet in a private setting to discuss industry topics, share best practices and exchange ideas. “Peer networking has proven to be an indispensable resource and one of the most highly rated aspects of the annual meeting,” Havel says.

One-on-one member and supplier partner meetings also will take place. “The meetings provide members and suppliers with a format to meet in person to discuss open issues, enhance relationships or forge new business opportunities,” Havel says.

Jason Bader, principal with the Distribution Team and a leading expert on operating efficiencies, will address the Equity membership during the member meeting Dec. 6. Bader will discuss strategies for distributors to improve gross-profit margins.

This year’s keynote speaker is Curt Steinhorst, an expert in strategic communications in the age of distraction. He will share his insights on how to work smarter and stronger in a constantly connected age.


This article was originally titled “Double play” in the November 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.