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New Members Increase PRO Group’s Reach

steve synnottSteve Synnott
President and CEO
After working for PRO Group for more than 20 years, Synnott purchased the company in 2012 from its founders, the Cosgrave family. He oversees PRO Group’s network of 73 distributors serving all 50 states.

Hardware Retailing (HR): The recent acquisition of Reliable Distributors was a big change at PRO Group. What value does it bring to PRO?
Steve Synnott (SS): Reliable Distributors Inc. was a group based out of Chicago that specialized in the farm, ranch, pet, agriculture and animal health categories. The acquisition added 42 wholesalers to the PRO Group network, bringing the total number of distributor members to 73. They were a wonderful fit for PRO because of the addition of significant geographical breadth in Alaska and Hawaii and the western half of the continental U.S. The energy and enthusiasm of the new distributor members have propelled PRO’s advertising and promotional products to a new level, and the meetings and trade shows have generated the best feedback from attendees we have ever received. The acquisition also resulted in PRO becoming a more significant channel partner to manufacturers by removing costs and combining the purchasing clout of our member distributors. Finally, we have found that former Reliable members have a lot to contribute in group meetings by sharing best practices, and they have also gained great insight from long-standing PRO members.

HR: Have there been any other major changes at PRO Group over the past few years?
SS: PRO has recently recruited several bright and talented individuals. The company’s culture has always been one that embraces entrepreneurial ideas and concepts, and this environment has fostered giant advances in our social media presence, online branding and advertising activities, and in-store, point-of-purchase signage creativity.

Above all, PRO Group has encouraged retailers to entice new customers with unique store experiences and knowledgeable staff.

We are proud of the contributions the team has made by listening to retail store owners and responding with solutions that have real relevance to the customer input we received.

Our team also engages various areas of the company, such as member distributor sales, purchasing and marketing. We have tried a few programs that failed, but we used those lessons to create more auspicious, market-driven plans that have proven to be effective. Those plans have included refining and improving the PRO mobile program that delivers exclusive coupons and deals and converting the company’s legacy mainframe operating systems to real-time online information that is easily accessed by the entire customer base.

HR: What are some of the challenges facing the home improvement industry and how are you helping members face them?

SS: The e-commerce giants such as Amazon and the online resources of Home Depot and Lowe’s continue to present a major challenge to the independent sector of the home improvement industry. PRO has leveraged its purchasing strength to deliver stronger buys, more timely promotions along with merchandising tools and assortments. We have also improved the online content available to independent retailers. Digital resources are designed to tie in to print and mobile advertising, creating a robust marketing program to reach a wide audience base. In addition, value-added services help independent retailers manage their own online presence and gain access to tools to make their brick-and-mortar stores stand out. Above all, PRO Group has encouraged retailers to entice new customers with unique store experiences and knowledgeable staff that can provide individualized project and product information not available in an online environment.

HR: What do you want customers to think of when they hear PRO Group?
SS: I want customers to think of PRO as the best resource to build the success of independent retailers, distributors and the manufacturers who serve us all.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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