ORLANDO, Fla. -- The recently formed National Association for Retail Merchandising Services, Stevens Point, Wis., will strive to set standards in an industry that is increasingly playing a bigger role at retail.
Gary Ebben, former head of the National Association of Service Merchandising and now executive director of NARMS, said the standards are necessary to improve the credibility of companies that provide the labor for such in-store activities as resets, restocks, new item placement and display setup.
The retail merchandiser's reputation has suffered by some who claim to service retailers but execute those duties poorly, said Ebben. By setting standards for its members to adhere to, NARMS hopes to ensure the industry gets qualified labor.
"By helping to set standards in merchandising and training, it's my belief that when companies look for help they would look to our association to provide a list of qualified people," said Ebben, who was attending the HBC Marketing Conference here put on by the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo. The GMDC organization has strengthened its numbers by accepting former NASM members into its organization. Ebben said about 15 service merchandising companies joined GMDC after NASM was folded two years ago.
According to Ebben, the segment of service-only companies is growing rapidly. He estimated that third-party merchandising among NARMS's 70 members, who do not distribute any product, is about a $500 million business.
"This industry is here at the right time and at the right place especially now that manufacturers have downsized their sales force and retailers are running tighter operations," Ebben told SN. The labor portion of the service is mostly being contracted and paid for by the manufacturing community at present, Ebben confirmed.
He projected that NARMS could grow to over 100 member companies especially if smaller demonstration firms get into the service end.
"The industry is growing and it has momentum. There are merchandising and educational issues and standards that need to be set. The time is right to be a stand-alone organization and we don't need to affiliate with anyone," Ebben added.
Besides establishing standards, NARMS plans to open a web site on the Internet listing members and the services they provide.
NARMS held its first meeting earlier this year in Phoenix, where over 90 people attended from 62 companies. It plans to host two conferences annually; one in the fall is planned September 19 to 21 in Panama City, Fla. The agenda will include a series of workshops, guest speakers and the results of the association's industry performance analysis.
The research project will be on-going and will provide members with first-time financial indices and benchmark information on retail merchandising companies. The analysis will allow members to compare their financial performance with their peers'. Initially, 30 companies are participating in the survey.
"Non of these statistics have ever existed," said Ebben. "Companies know what they are spending per stock, per call, per hour, and on office overhead and accounts receivable. But they haven't been able to measure it against anybody else."
One of the largest service organizations in the country, PIA Merchandising Co., Irvine, Calif., is not a member of NARMS. Asked if this hurt his organization, Ebben said he believes PIA may change its mind about joining NARMS once standards are established and the web site is being used to contract labor.