Members of the National Association of Service Merchandisers have come to believe that there is strength in numbers.
the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., and the American Wholesale Marketers Association, Washington.
Association executives view NASM's decision as a gutsy and somewhat unusual move in that the association was still operating from a financial base of strength, even though its membership was declining.
In 1984, NASM consisted of 95 merchandising distributors and 400 manufacturing companies.
Today, there are just 65 service merchandising companies represented in NASM. Manufacturing support has been cut nearly in half over a 10-year period with 250 companies currently listed as association members.
"It was an unusual move in a positive sense," says David Strachan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of AWMA. "NASM is dealing from a position of strength and they are better able to ensure a good future for their members as a result of a pretty gutsy decision," he said.
Rick Tilton, president of GMDC, said he has been impressed by the professionalism that NASM has exhibited in trying to decide upon its future direction.
"To come up with the option of shutting down while you are still strong and to recommend to your membership that they join stronger and larger associations is not an easy decision," says Tilton.
"It couldn't have happened without Gary Ebben directing it. I complement their staff and executive committee for making a tough and good decision for the industry and their members," he adds.
Gary Ebben, president of NASM, said he firmly believes in the service distributor concept and the importance of partial case stock distribution.
"As our service distributor industry goes into the future, I feel comfortable that I've served the association well with emotion and passion," he says. In merging its membership with the GMDC and AWMA, NASM members will get a one-year free membership in both organizations and will have member representation on the associations' boards.
Those service merchandisers that provide services for the convenience store channel will most likely become permanent members of AWMA. The association is made up of 1,200 wholesale companies, 450 manufacturer members, 1,200 brokers, representing 760 firms, and 250 retail members of all trade channels.
Education was a critical issue for NASM. However, the association didn't have the resources for the long-term development of extensive research programs, said Ebben.