I’m writing this installment of On The Road somewhere over Atlanta (the wonders of airplane WiFi). I just left Orlando where the temperature was in the 60s and 70s and will shortly return to Chicago where at last check the temperature was 0° F. I heard it got down to 20-below the other night and we’re supposed to get some more snow later in the week.

Is it spring yet? Enough about my weather woes.

This time of the year marks the annual kickoff of the buying group season. First up as always is the combined Luxury Products Group and Omni meetings. This year’s gatherings were held at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort on the Universal property in Orlando.

This year’s Omni meeting attracted more than 1,000 people. If you were trying to find someone in the main ballroom where various activities were held, it took you awhile to do so. That’s how big the turnout was.

Huge attendance numbers weren’t the only positives to come out of the meetings. Omni President Bob Hoff reported a 10% increase in member sales from a year ago and also noted the group has again risen above the combined $1 billion in sales mark (that number had fallen into the $700 million range during the economic downturn). We’ll have a complete rundown of the group’s annual business conditions survey in the March print edition of Supply House Times.

Omni’s reports always provide a great gauge on how things have shaken out over the last six months and how member companies feel about the coming six months. The survey is broken down by region, which further provides data on how particular parts of the company are doing compared to others.

Linda Hoff reported even more good news on the Luxury Products Group front. The still-relatively-young decorative bath-and-kitchen showroom group increased sales by 35% over last year and membership also continues to rise.

New initiatives for Omni

Even though numbers continue on the upswing, Omni isn’t resting on its laurels. Bob Hoff announced two important initiatives the buying group has been busy working on. Omni has been talking about the possibility of a group health-care plan that would be made available to both members and vendor partners. Several meetings were held during the Omni session on this topic.

Omni also is in the process of rolling out a Web-based program called Fill It Now, which will allow Omni members to search other members’ inventories online. Look for a video interview with Bob Hoff in the coming days where he further talks about the health-care and Fill It Now initiatives.

For more on the Luxury Products Group and Omni meetings, check out the March issue of Supply House Times. Video interviews from the meeting will be available in the coming days here on www.supplyht.com/video.

The 2015 LPG and Omni meetings head to Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa.