The Wholesale Distributors Association, which will celebrate its 74th anniversary in 2003, is planning to make some changes to its annual convention and is having discussions with the Southern Wholesalers Association on a possible joint convention in the future.

Lee Steinhouse, SWA president, attended the WDA convention held in Dallas, Feb. 28 to March 2, while Bob Keller, WDA chairman, and Gina Johnston, WDA secretary, planned to attend the SWA convention March 14-16 in Orlando, Fla.

"We are adapting to a changing industry. We want to try different things," said incoming WDA President Bill Ponder during the business meeting at the WDA convention. The date of next year's convention is being moved to April and the event will be held in Austin, Texas, for the first time.

A new format, one day shorter than most conventions, will be offered: the opening reception will be Thursday evening; the golf outing will be on Friday morning with one tee time, and the booth presentation that evening. The membership meeting will be held on Saturday morning, followed by workshops. Private meetings can be scheduled Thursday and Friday afternoons and evenings.

"The education programs are on Saturday so wholesalers can bring more employees to attend without interrupting their work," Ponder said. "The people who need the training are the ones we left behind. Use WDA for education."

The workshops should target inside and outside salespeople and counter people, covering topics such as understanding the distinction between gross margin and mark-up, and how to do discounts and multipliers (if 10% doesn't get the order, get 15%), he said.

"Most of our people don't understand the erosion of margin," Ponder said. "Salespeople determine the gross margin. If they are better trained, they can dramatically improve the bottom line."

Often companies schedule internal training after 5 p.m., when employees are tired and less receptive, and it is done in the office, where there are interruptions, he said.

Ponder is general manager at Moore Supply of League City, Texas. His father, Paul Ponder, and his sister, Cindy Davis, both now with Hughes Supply, received awards at the WDA convention. Paul Ponder was honored for 50 years in the business and Cindy Davis for 25. She was one of 31 people to be recognized for 25 to 49 years of service to the industry.

The 2003 WDA convention will be held April 23-26 at the Renaissance Austin in Austin, Texas.