From left: Artisan Manufacturing Corp.’s Richard Zinnie and Robert Lynch and Ardente Supply’s Amy Zuckerman and Michael Ardente were among the attendees at the recent Forte Buying Group meeting in La Jolla, Calif. Photo by Bob Miodonski

The Forte Buying Group unveiled its own private-label fixture line and a new software program for members’ virtual showrooms at its annual conference Feb. 22-25 in La Jolla, Calif. Forte also welcomed eight new vendors attending their first conference.

“Forte is going down the private-label path because we need more options and lines whose margins can’t be compromised by low-ball competitors, whose distribution we can control, and that enable our showrooms to be the main beneficiary of building brands and pioneering lines,” said incoming PresidentJeff Burtonof The Bath + Beyond showroom in San Francisco. “The new Forte line fills a niche not currently served by existing Forte vendors.”

The private-label line represents one of the steps Forte is taking to help its members control their own destiny, he said. Burton went on to say the bath-and-kitchen industry is facing a new reality.

“The same old way to go to market and conduct business simply does not work well in today’s Internet age where our showrooms and businesses are often used to look, see, feel and educate so our customers can buy products elsewhere,” he said. “We can’t be content to press the easy button and do the same old thing over and over again and expect different results. It will not work.”

Along those lines, software company ayr1 announced a new platform to help subscribing Forte members develop virtual showrooms on the Internet. The platform will better categorize, display, and search decorative plumbing and hardware products on these sites.

The virtual showrooms provide visitors with easily searchable content, which includes product pictures, data, options, specifications and installation instructions.

Other preferred vendors of Forte introduced more than 100 products ranging from faucets to bath lighting during a table-top exhibit Feb. 23. Forte’s eight new vendors are: KWC America, ThermaSol, Hydro Systems, Argento, Hudson Valley Lighting/Litman Brands, Strasser Woodenworks, GlassCrafters and St. Thomas Creations.

Forte presented a number of awards during the meeting. Recognized for their leadership on the Forte-ayr1 partnership wereJason Kuderof Rayware in Jacksonville, Fla.;Russ Diamondof Snyder Diamond in Santa Monica, Calif.; andChris Brennanof the European Sink Outlet in Atlanta.

Andy Wilkinsonof Wilkinson Supply in Raleigh, N.C., was presented the Forte President’s Award for his commitment to developing the private-label fixture line. Briggs Inc. was recognized as the Forte Shareholder of the Year for its commitment to Forte and Forte vendors. Briggs operates showrooms in Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; and Lenexa, Kan.

Forte recognizedKymberly Weinerof Best Plumbing Tiles & Stone in Somers, N.Y.;Eric Nelsonof SplashWorks in San Jose, Calif.;Ada Aldanoof Designer’s Plumbing & Hardware in Miami; andJennifer Grantof Rayware for their efforts on the Forte Product Only Committee. JACLO was named Forte Preferred Vendor of the Year.  

Forte comprises about 100 shareholders who operate more than 250 independently owned showrooms across North America. For more information,