The news is positive for the Equity buying group coming out of its recent annual meeting held in Atlanta.

The group’s year-to-date volume is tracking 7% above last year, Equity President and CEO Matt Roos told Supply House Times. Equity has added 12 new distributors to the group and eight new supplier partners. Member distributors expanded with the addition of four plumbing branch locations and two new showroom locations. Equity’s membership as of mid-October stood at 429 member companies with 587 locations. The group’s business trends 32% commercial, 27% residential, 15% industrial/PVF, 14% showroom, 8% institutional and 4% government/municipality.

Ted Havel, vice president of marketing and supplier relations, noted Equity continues to provide innovative programs to best help its member companies succeed in the marketplace.

For example, the Equity First program provides a platform for connecting members who are considering the sale of their business with fellow Equity members who are interested in expanding.

“This is a valuable and needed service,” Havel stressed. “It confidentially matches members wishing to acquire businesses with those desiring to sell. While family considerations are of paramount importance during the company sales process, many member owners often feel the best thing they can do for their employees and their customers is to sell their companies to fellow independent distributors.”

The Equity to the MAXX initiative is an annual purchasing survey that identifies the membership’s purchases from non-approved suppliers. “The information is used to determine market share of Equity members, to guide Equity suppliers on new business opportunities, to set conversion targets for Equity members and to provide a rebate earnings estimation for members that convert purchases from non-Equity suppliers to approved suppliers,” Havel explained.

Equity’s GainShare program encourages members to develop joint marketing plans with suppliers to set attainable stretch purchase goals. “Members have the ability to negotiate their purchase goals with the supplier’s based on local market conditions and the current level of support provided by the member to that supplier for a given product category,” Havel said.

Roos added Equity members are urged to use the GainShare program as an opportunity to shift purchases from non-Equity to Equity suppliers and be rewarded for doing so.

“Each completed and approved GainShare plan results in an annual member purchase goal that can be tracked by both parties throughout the year on our website,” he explained. “When the goal is achieved, the member earns additional rebate dollars and the supplier achieves or exceeds its sales goal with that particular member.”

Finally, Equity has partnered with a pair of companies to launch its Equity Product Content & Webstore. The buying group partnered with Second Phase, a provider of webstore solutions to wholesale distributors and Trade Service, a provider of product data for wholesalers and webstores.

The partnership, Havel noted, provides participating Equity members the tools to offer a robust webstore experience to their customers via a professional-looking website with a rich webstore experience with complete product content data and images and a fast-search speed using the latest cloud technology all for a reasonable everything-included monthly fee.

“We’re leveraging the scale of the group,” Havel said. “Members can share the cost of creating and maintaining content, allowing a much lower cost compared to alternative solutions.”


Annual meeting 2016

This year’s Equity annual meeting at the Westin Peachtree Plaza attracted more than 350 attendees, which encompassed Equity distributor members, supplier partners and invited guests.

“Our annual meeting format has proven to be an indispensable networking resource for participating members and suppliers,” Havel said. “Peer networking is one of the most important benefits our meeting offers our members. Members meet in formal networking sessions to discuss their challenges, share ideas and discuss solutions leading to best practices for business improvements. The supplier/member one-on-one sessions provide a mutual opportunity to strengthen existing relationships, forge new ones and explore opportunities for sales growth and enhanced profits.

Roos said the group now has more than 90 supplier partners on its roster. “Equity membership has access to extensive product offerings from industry-leading, world-class manufacturers that wish to support independent wholesale distribution,” he said.

Attendees heard from keynote speaker Commander Kirk Lippold, United States Navy (retired), the author of “Front Burner: The Attack on USS Cole.” Lippold spoke about how the difference between team success and failure lies in the instinctive principles that are ingrained through training and guiding people to action. He also shared his “Five Pillars of Leadership” (integrity, vision, personal responsibility and accountability, trust and professional competence) that construct a framework for getting the most from a workforce. He also discussed issues affecting the country today and answered questions from the membership. “We have never had such a strong, positive and emotional response to any previous speaker,” Roos remarked.

Coming out of the meeting, Havel had several takeaways about current market conditions. “In general, the business climate is sluggish with intense margin pressure, especially in residential construction,” he said. “Finding capable and motivated employees continues to be an ongoing challenge.”

On a region-by-region basis, Havel said Texas and the New York-New Jersey area are reporting strong activity.  “Texas is a leading state with strong growth,” he said. “In particular, members that serve the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston and Austin markets indicate robust construction activity. Members that serve metropolitan New York City and northern New Jersey also report solid and continuous growth,” he said.

Havel added additional strong markets, as reported by Equity members, include Maryland/northern Virginia/Washington, D.C., Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Equity also presented its 2016 member performance awards to companies that excel in increasing total amount of dollars purchased from Equity suppliers, the number of Equity supplier lines they support, the number of Equity suppliers they have generated positive growth with and the number of new business relationships established with Equity suppliers (conversions).

Winners for 2016 include Laurel, Md.-based Central Wholesalers, Staten Island, N.Y.-based Coastal Supply Group, Lewisville, Texas-based H20 Supply, Denver-based McMillian Sales Corp., and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based World-Wide Plumbing Supply.

Equity’s annual supplier awards were presented to suppliers that were ranked highest by the Equity distributor members in the categories of delivery, marketing, merchandising, product and promotion.

Control Supply Corp. was the winner of the delivery award, while Delta Faucet earned the marketing award. Jones Stephens took home the merchandising honor, while InSinkErator was the winner of the product award. Mansfield Plumbing won the promotion award.

Equity’s 2017 annual meeting takes place Dec. 5-7 at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside.


This article was originally titled “Marching forward” in the November 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.