The towering Santa Rosa Mountains set the backdrop for the Distribution America/PRO Group, Inc. 2015 Executive Planning Conference held November 18-20th at the JW Marriott Palm Desert Resort.
This year’s event marks the 11th consecutive year of the joint conference, where vendors have the opportunity to meet one on one with key principles from both organizations to discuss challenges and opportunities for the coming year.
According to Dave Christmas, president and CEO of Charlotte, NC-based Distribution America, this special event continues to benefit both manufacturers and distributors in the industry, with this year’s conference hitting near record attendance.  “The opportunity to conduct high level conversations with new and existing customers while reducing travel time and expenses is a tremendous value for all attendees.” Christmas also said that “2014 has been a good year for our channel, as business continues to recover, and we expect the momentum to continue in 2015.”
Jim Connolly, Senior Vice President of Aurora, OH-based TCP Inc. stated that the DA/Pro conference is a “unique venue that allows suppliers and distributors to spend time together for collaborative planning. The business relationships that this conference builds help keep the hardware channel competitive.”
According to Steve Synnott, president and CEO of Denver-based PRO Group Inc., “The EPC gets better every year as one of the channel’s premier events with outstanding opportunities for industry leaders to accomplish both business planning and social interaction.  This is a meeting where you can get to know a new colleague while developing a plan for the coming years’ business.”
Don Hasson, CEO of the Knoxville, TN based House-Hasson Hardware Company added, “The conference helps us map out advertising and promotions for the coming year.  Manufacturers continue to support the two-step distribution model and this venue is a great way to continue to build relationships with these vendors.”
Dave Davis, corporate vice president, Supply Chain of The Bostwick-Braun Company said, “In my mind, there are huge benefits Bostwick-Braun gets from attending the EPC. We get the chance to meet one-on-one, uninterrupted with decision-makers from our most significant suppliers as well as evaluating potential new vendors. We also get to touch base with other distributors who face the same issues we do. We compare successes, solutions and trends. The bottom line is that the EPC helps us improve our business throughout the year.”
Paul Delaney, director of consumer business for S-Line, LLC mirrors the sentiments of other attendees, “The conference is by far the best value and the best-run meeting event in the Hardware industry. It provides a great environment to meet with multiple customers, discuss opportunities for improvement, and exchange new ideas and set strategy for the next year.”
Over 400 manufacturers and distributors attended the 3-day event, which included 2,988 face-to-face meetings. Topics discussed include new product launches, fill rates, promotions and new business opportunities.  A scramble golf tournament and a reception sponsored by the National Hardware Show, featuring culinary and musical talents of conference attendees, rounded out the networking opportunities.
Distribution America and PRO Group, Inc. presented the following awards during this year’s Executive Planning Conference:
Best New Product Awards:
Electrical: Gardner Bender – Wifi Inspection Camera
Hand Tools: CLC Custom LeatherCraft – Tackle Tec Nomad XP Lighted Backpack with USB Charging System
Housewares and Seasonal: Jack Links’s Beef Jerky – Small Batch Bacon Jerky s
Hardware: Stanley National Hardware / Kwikset – Smart Key Pad Lock
Lawn & Garden and Pet: United Industries Corporation – Mulch-Lock Products Seal Mulch
Paint: Rust-Oleum – Rust-Oleum Peel Coat
Plumbing: Delta Faucet Company – 6 Setting Digital Temperature Display Showerhead
Tools: Shop Air by Shop-Vac Corporation – 1/4 HP Stainless Steel Air Circulator
Overall Winner: Stanley Black & Decker Tools: Dewalt – 20 Volt Max Compact Reciprocating Saw
Distribution America Vendors of the Year
 Electrical: Gardner Bender
Paint and Paint Sundries: Encore Plastics
Hardware: Midwest Fasteners
Hand and Power Tools: Apex tool Group
Plumbing: Genova Products
Lawn and Garden: H.D. Hudson
Specialty Products: Hampton Products
Soaring Eagle Vendor Partnership Award: Apex Tool Group