MINNEAPOLIS -- Representatives of 28 firms that provide third-party retail merchandising services voted here July 21 to form an independent association.
To be called Association of Retailer Merchandising Services, or ARMS, the group has selected a nine-member advisory board to guide its activities, said Randy Douglas, vice president of account management at Field Marketing Inc., who is acting chairman.
ARMS is planning to hold its first industry meeting and seminar "in a warm-weather city" in late January or early February.
"The advisory board will act as the leadership of the association until next winter, when we expect to have bylaws and a plan of organization ready. Those will be put up for recommendations and a vote at our meeting," he said.
Douglas said that ARMS will also elect officers at that meeting, after which the current advisory board will convert into a formal board of directors. The group also plans a quarterly newsletter, which will begin next month.
The decision to form ARMS would appear to set the affiliation of companies in this estimated $1 billion industry segment, which have been homeless since the dissolution of the National Association of Service Merchandisers last fall.
However, some industry participants told SN that they anticipate separate initiatives by two other industry groups, the National Food Brokers Association and the National Association of Demonstration Companies.
Indeed, when asked about his group's plans in the retail merchandising sector, NFBA President Bob Schwarze told SN that he was preparing to announce to the membership next week plans for the formation of a "steering committee on retail services.
"Many of our members are already actively involved in this business," he said.
Similar activities are expected from the NADC in coming months, according to several sources familiar with the in-store demonstration industry. NADC President Judy Foley, who was present at the meeting at which ARMS was formed, has stated that her organization would welcome the service companies as members. About 40 NADC member firms have reportedly created merchandising divisions in recent years.
NFBA and NADC are not alone in their interest in this sector. The American Wholesale Marketers Association and the General Merchandise Distributors Council have each made formal membership offers to the former NASM member companies.
The July 21 meeting of the service companies took place at the AWMA Summer Convention and Exposition, here in Minneapolis. Those firms had temporarily affiliated with AWMA during their transition period, and Douglas remains a member of the AWMA board of directors.
The nine members of the ARMS board include: Douglas; Bill Bartels, corporate senior vice president at Spar Group Inc., Tarrytown, N.Y.; Laura Foley Choma, partner in Northeast Support Services, North Reading, Mass.; Brian Ferris, president of Total Merchandise Service, Newaygo, Mich.; Dan Griffith, president of Elite Merchandising, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Ed Kovatch, executive vice president of AAi, North Providence, R.I.; Tom McNulty, president of In-Store Service, Brighton, Mo.; John Owens, president of Alpha One, Little Rock, Ark., and May Swenson, president of Pimms, Minneapolis.