AD members and supplier partners made the most of their time together at the 2021 Decorative Brands Division annual meeting November 16–1-18. From informative workshops to formal and informal networking, the agenda helped attendees maximize their first in-person gathering in more than 18 months.

Launched in 2018, Decorative Brands is a relatively new division to the AD community but has been among AD’s fastest growing. Director Linda Hoff shared that in just four years, the division grew from eight members to 50 and now includes 75 supplier partners. Earnings have risen significantly each year, with member rebates more than quadrupling since 2018. 

The division is also on track to see record growth in member purchases from AD suppliers, with purchases up 36% so far this year. Hoff credits the powerful working relationships among the AD community.

“The partnership between our members and suppliers has fostered incredible growth,” Hoff said. “We are very fortunate to have strong support from our supplier partners in sponsorship as well as promotional offerings. We’re looking forward to continuing the momentum we have generated over the past few years.”

Jeffrey Beall, president of the AD PHCP business unit that also includes the PVF, plumbing and HVAC divisions, noted that much of Decorative Brands’ recent success stems from how members navigated the pandemic, pivoting to serve customers and seize opportunities through flexible, creative solutions. Referencing this year’s event theme, True North, Beall reminded members and suppliers of the importance of moving together in the right direction.

“We've all been through some pretty rough times,” Beall said. “But this is a growing industry, and it needs us supporting each other to keep getting better. We're all here today to work through things together, to continue to grow and find ways to enhance the independent channel.”

Building on that sentiment, Katie Poehling Seymour, CEO and president of First Supply LLC and chair of the division’s board of directors, spoke to attendees about leaning into the networking aspect of AD’s meetings.

“We build deeper connections here, so when we go back home, we're one step ahead in our relationships,” Poehling Seymour said. “It also gives us another tier of relationships to build on. Local relationships fuel the engine of our business; national ones reinforce our competitive strengths as a group.”

Celebrating success

During the business meeting, two companies received awards in recognition of their exceptional efforts and successes as part of the AD community. Frank Webb Home received the AD Decorative Brands Member of the Year award. Among achievements, as member of the AD PVF Division since its inception 26 years ago, Frank Webb Home representatives have served on various AD boards and committees and engaged in network groups and participated in core programs, in addition to achieving significant financial growth. 

The AD Decorative Brands Supplier of the Year award went to inSinkerator, a supplier that has consistently driven growth for AD members. The company was recognized for its commitment to providing broad product choices and excellent customer service while partnering with members through the AD Education Center and AD Rewards. 

Becoming stronger together

In line with AD’s goal to keep members ahead of industry trends, the meeting included a workshop on retail design and product trends in decorative plumbing and lighting showrooms. Stephan Roy, president of SH Design-Build explained the latest trends in retail showroom design and how to tap into millennial buyers, while Ryan Ranzino, VP of sales of Crystorama covered up-to-date buying and merchandising strategies and the future of specialty shopping. 

AD member Josh Spoklie, director of plumbing of Consolidated Supply Co. voiced appreciation for the workshop’s timely insights.

“You’re always trying to figure out if you’re on the front edge or trailing,” Spoklie commented. “It really helps to hear from experts in the field.” 

The annual meeting also featured a different kind of educational experience: an evening wine and food pairing event at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center. In the spirit of creating exceptional experiences, attendees enjoyed a unique open-air reception with world-renowned wines and custom-tailored food creations.

Other meeting highlights included a full day of one-on-one booth sessions, giving members and suppliers an opportunity to nurture business relationships and plan for the upcoming year. While supplier booths are a fixture at many AD events, only the Decorative Brands Division offers a best-in-class product showcase featuring stunning product displays.

The event concluded with formal member and supplier network meetings, where participants met in small, non-competing groups to share best practices, strengthen market relationships and work together to address changes and challenges. 

While attendees took advantage of the time they had together, as Hoff noted, the networking continues.

“Attendees didn’t really know each other at the first few annual meetings,” Hoff said. “Now they stay in contact outside the meetings, and some networks even meet on their own a few times a year. At this year’s event, I noticed many more people coming together as friends through the relationships they’ve built. It’s very rewarding to see.”