More than 1,800 Winsupply owners and staff gathered for the wholesaler’s bi-annual Strategic Planning Meeting and Vendor Showcase, March 9-11, at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. The attendance was about 300 more than the last time the group met in 2018, and the audience heard more record breakers during the general session:
Revenue for the last fiscal year ended Jan. 31 was $3.93 billion, an increase of just over 7 percent.
Total employment at Winsupply stood at around 6,700 people as of the end of the fiscal year.
Winsupply opened six new local companies (non-acquisitions) and acquired three other companies during the year, bringing the total number of company locations to 612 through March.
In that regard, Winsupply created a new position last year for Winsupply veteran Monte Salsman as president of the Winsupply Acquisition Group.
“Historically Winsupply has taken an opportunistic approach to acquisitions,” Salsman told us, “resulting in the successful purchase and integration of companies like Noland Company, Carr Supply, and Security Plumbing and Heating Supply, along with smaller distributors that make important contributions to Winsupply’s overall growth. To continue to meet our growth goals, Winsupply recognized the need to become more deliberate in seeking out acquisition candidates and identifying talent to start new companies.”
E-commerce also continues to be an important component in the distributor’s future growth.
“It’s been a steady increase of online activity including online sales, online account
management and online invoice payments,” said Steve Edwards, senior vice president of marketing. “We’re seeing month over month increases in each of those areas which further validates our belief that customers are comfortable extending their relationship with us online.”
The COVID-19 outbreak was just beginning to make news in the U.S. at the time of the meeting. We caught up with Edwards in the weeks afterward, who added that it would result “in further increases in online activity as customers want to limit their contact with others as much as possible.”
The event includes a number of one-on-one vendor meetings, which totaled 6,400 this year, as well as the popular Vendor Showcase, which featured 225 vendors and 330 booths.
Spirit of Opportunity Award
One other mainstay of the event is the Awards Dinner, which featured a number of winners recognizing owners and manufacturers.
However, we have to consider that this year’s top vote getter was Eddie Gibbs, senior vice president of vendor relations, who was named the first-time winner of the Richard W. Schwartz Spirit of Opportunity Award.
In his remarks, Schwartz, Winsupply’s chairman of the board, said the award represents the spirit instilled in the company since a group of entrepreneurs founded Primus in Dayton, Ohio and opened its first location in Pueblo, Colorado in 1958.
“Eddie, throughout your career at Winsupply, you’ve embodied our philosophy of helping courageous, capable and hardworking entrepreneurs succeed,” Schwartz said. “In other words, you’ve helped keep the Spirit of Opportunity alive and well. I believe there is no better place or time to recognize your immeasurable achievements and present you with this award – in front of those local company entrepreneurs, vendors, reps, and members of your family. On behalf of the entire Winsupply organization, thank you for all you’ve done, for not only Winsupply but for the impact you’ve also made in our industry.”
Gibbs, who began his wholesaling career at Hughes Supply in 1971, “back when I had hair,” he joked upon receiving his award, will be retiring after spending the last 15 years at Winsupply.
Gibbs steps down from Winsupply after implementing the vendor relation’s function at the company, which Schwartz added has helped “drive outstanding local company performance and unmatched vendor support.”
Top local companies, vendors
At each meeting, Winsupply also recognizes its top local companies and vendors.
The top companies and presidents in their respective industry plus individual award winners were:
The Winsupply Preferred Vendors that won in each category were chosen based on several criteria, the most important of which was being a leader in growing the segment’s business over the past year. They were also judged on selling to a breadth of locations that buy the vendor’s product, providing strong support at the local level, and achieving consistent volume and growth.
The following are the winners for the 2020 Vendor of the Year:
Last but not least, this year’s show featured a return engagement of industry favorite, The Brushed Nickleback Band, comprised of Winsupply employees and local owners. And if that wasn’t enough, the crowd was treated to a surprise appearance by Don Felder, lead guitarist for the Eagles.