AD North American Meeting Recap, Observations & Award Winners

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Earlier this week I attended the AD Electrical North American Meeting (NAM) and thought I’d share some observations about the meeting, input I received and commentary from others … all in no particular order.


And unfortunately, what is essentially a 1 1/2 day meeting which includes 2 1/2 days of one-on-ones seems very packed, goes quickly and could provide a little more value-added … especially given that individuals fly cross country for a short meeting … but as an industry we seem to want shorter and shorter meetings.

And with no further delay (and I’ll try to organize my comments by day)
  • Only distributors are allowed into the affiliate network sessions so I don’t know what the hot topics were and unfortunately didn’t have an opportunity to ask many distributors.
  • Jigsaw Systems shared its SPA management system with the Affiliate Financial Network members. Unfortunately it was late in the day but, from the presentation, it seems like a number of manufacturers are in various stages of discussion in testing the platform.  Seems like an interesting way to improve the administration of SPAs, thereby helping distributors claim their monies and improve their overall profitability while manufacturers can have better insight and possibly price management.  Something that needs to be watched.
  • Spoke to a number of manufacturers who said business has been “slow” with some recent projects delayed (thank you government shutdown and for hurting business confidence!).  The industrial market is flat to up a few points with OEM business weak.
  • Manufacturers, and distributors, are talking about market share and share of wallet (both are topics we’ve been helping companies with lately through both research and strategies to address).
  • The need for increased “sales” and “customer” engagement strategies was talked about.  Additionally, vertical marketing is on everyone’s checklist with many trying to mimic T&B’s success in this area.
  • Some talk about Amazon Supply.  Everyone trying to figure out what it does / could mean. The one thing it has done is further ratchet up the conversation about eCommerce and eContent.  Regarding eContent, I heard that the IDW now has 400-500,000 attributed SKUs!
  • A number of manufacturers asked me, and distributors, about what everyone is hearing about the Cooper / Eaton integration and what, if any, leveraging is taking place / will take place.  Varying levels were discussed and instances shared.
  • A recent survey of affiliates and distributors predicts a 2014 forecast of 4 1/2%… but it’s still early yet! And then later own they showed projections by market segment which were a little higher but the overall weighted average is in the 4 1/2 – 5% range, with suppliers a little higher.)
  • The meeting had 950 attendees, highest attendance ever (for solely electrical) with 100 first time attendees.  This was 11-14% higher than last year (depending upon affiliate / supplier audience).  ESD affiliate total sales are projected to be $11.8 billion, which is 45% of ADs total $26 billion in affiliate revenues (across 6 divisions).  The division will pay out 102% of its rebate income.  In what many were surprised was significant transparency, Bill Weisberg shared a little on how this occurs and suffice it to say that it is a sophisticated treasury (financial management / investment) strategy – significantly different from what we had when I was at IMARK.
  • In sticking with transparency, Bill talked about the organization’s governance process, its succession planning, its strategic initiatives and its guiding principles.  Core to the guiding principles is a commitment to independent distributors, the ability for affiliates to have a voice and to ensure affiliate confidentiality … even when suppliers ask about competitive sales information to target conversions.  In speaking to suppliers, Bill also emphasized that they want partnerships and believe in selectivity and consulting with suppliers rather than seeking all suppliers in a product category.  He sees a bright future and emphasized that the group’s revenues continues to grow in the face of consolidation.
Manufacturers also commented on the quality and value of the various meetings that they attend, especially since many have recently been to the Graybar and WESCO meetings and were getting ready to head to the IMARK meeting.  They felt that the Graybar meeting is the best due to the trade show, branch attendance, meetings and training.  This is followed by the AD meeting due to the quality of the meetings and then IMARK.  To a manufacturer (that I spoke to) they lamented the missed opportunity at the WESCO meeting and that limited business is transacted and it seems like “WESCO always has its hands out.”

AD also announced a number of awards.  I’ll list the winners here.  Most categories had 3 nominees.  The winners are:
If you attended, what were your thoughts on the meeting? What did you hear during your one-on-ones that seemed to be trends?
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