MARCO ISLAND, Fla. -- In a break from its intense schedule of business conferences here this week, the General Merchandise Distributors Council membership will be called upon to ratify an unusual amendment to its bylaws.
The rule change will permit a temporary expansion of GMDC's board of directors so it can properly accommodate a group of new members expected to migrate from the National Association of Service Merchandising.
GMDC's president, Rick Tilton, explained the procedure to SN following the announcement by the NASM leadership of its intention to disband this December. Based on previous negotiations, NASM members are expected to affiliate with GMDC, the American Wholesale Marketers Association or both, depending on individual preferences.
"We were not surprised by the NASM announcement, because we had been involved in ongoing discussions with their board over the last several months," Tilton said.
He described NASM's decision-making as "very professional and very well done" and complimented its board for making "a very good decision for the industry and for the members."
So that the interests of former NASM members can be represented properly within GMDC, he said, the board will be enlarged for a period of three years. The temporary seats will be eliminated gradually as board terms expire.
Tilton said he and the rest of GMDC were "delighted" at the prospect of a boost to membership, but he also praised NASM for the high caliber of its representation for service merchandisers over the past 15 years.
"The strength of its annual meetings and specialized seminars and education have benefited the entire industry," he said.
Under the terms of their agreements with NASM, GMDC and AWMA will each receive half of NASM's net assets -- sums expected to exceed $300,000 each. Tilton said GMDC will treat the funds it receives as an "endowment," to be spent solely on educational activities of interest to service merchandisers.
He also said synergies between the two associations would mean the affiliation would benefit GMDC's current membership. "A substantial number of them perform service merchandiser functions, even if they are owned by a retailer or wholesaler," he said.
GMDC expanded to include some service merchandisers about two and a half years ago, he added.
"On the manufacturer side, vast majority of NASM members are already GMDC members anyway."
The decision by NASM members to join GMDC will be a voluntary one. Tilton said his association would not begin any recruiting drive among service merchandisers until NASM's dissolution is final.
He added, "I don't look at this as a gain for GMDC but as a gain for the industry. With the synergies there, the tightness in the market, and respect for the time and cost element of our respective memberships, putting it together to represent all of the GM/HBC industry is superb for the industry as a whole."