The latest and greatest industry news centers around the October announcement of the Omni and Equity Plumbing buying groups merging with IMARK Group to form a large cooperative that has both plumbing and electrical divisions (Omni and Equity members will form the IMARK Plumbing arm).

Prior to the merger, Equity Plumbing Vice President of Marketing and Supplier Relations Ted Havel gave Supply House Times its annual update on the group’s progress. The final annual meeting under the Equity Plumbing umbrella is being held in Rosemont, Illinois, in late October.

Havel said as of mid-September Equity added 20 distributors to the group, plus the membership added 24 new branch locations, bringing the number of member companies to 429 and the number of total locations to 611 with a collective purchasing power approaching $2 billion annually.

A key initiative for the group was the recent investment and migration to SAP that allows for faster and in-depth analytical tools to better aid membership and the group’s supplier partners. “For our members we are able to collect and process purchasing data much quicker resulting in distributing rebate earnings 15 to 20 days in advance of our previous schedule,” Havel said. “For our suppliers we offer a suite of analytical sales reports and peer benchmarking tools.”

Havel reported the group’s GainShare Joint Planning Program, designed to enhance the level of engagement among Equity members and suppliers, has expanded to more than 35 supplier GainShare plans and 230 member companies participating in one or multiple GainShare plans.

“Members develop joint marketing plans with suppliers to set attainable stretch purchase goals,” he explained. “Members are encouraged to use the program as an opportunity to shift purchase form non-Equity suppliers to Equity suppliers.”

Havel said year-to-date, 2018 GainShare payout incentives were tracking to increase by 58% over the previous year’s payout. He stressed the group continues to offer effective communication and marketing tools. “We provide many low-cost and no-cost opportunities for our suppliers to communicate their products, services and marketing resources to Equity members,” he said.

For example, The Equity Gold/Platinum Program acknowledges and rewards members that achieve growth with Equity suppliers and participate fully and effectively in Equity marketing programs. The Equity to the MAXX annual purchasing survey provides Equity suppliers with market-share information and delivers dividend earnings to members for converting business to approved Equity suppliers.

Looking at market conditions, Havel said virtually all members are reporting positive growth in their markets with many indicating solid double-digit growth. Mountain states (Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico) are leading in overall percentage growth followed by Florida and New England.

Havel took a moment to look back at Equity’s progress since it was launched 10 years ago with a commitment from 25 distributors and a few suppliers.

“We’re very proud to attract successful independent wholesalers and industry-leading suppliers,” he said. “From those early years to where we are today we have enjoyed much growth and success. All our accomplishments would not be possible without the support and dedication from our membership and our supplier partners.