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 gusty 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. "I am gratified that our board made a quality decision. The GMDC and AWMA are excellent choices. These are trade associations managed with high quality professionals. Our industry will move forward well served."
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.
Both the GMDC and AWMA have established strong Education Foundations that pursue vital industry research that will benefit all its members.
As part of its partnering agreement with the two associations, NASM will spilt its net assets of about $700,000 and donate it to the education foundations of both organizations.
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.
"One thing trade associations can do best for its members is provide research and education. As we looked to the future we knew we needed research on the benefits of value-added distribution, activity-based costing and Efficient Consumer Response. As we looked to the future, we couldn't see how NASM could provide those activities at a level necessary for our members to compete and learn," he explains.