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Katye Schmoldt

director, The EDGE Group, San Leandro, CA. The EDGE Group is a buying group for AV distributors in the custom installation market. The group offers ISF training and other value added services for its members.

director, The EDGE Group, San Leandro, CA. The EDGE Group is a buying group for AV distributors in the custom installation market. The group offers ISF training and other value added services for its members.

Pro AV:Why do pro AV distributors need a buying group?

Schmoldt: A buying group gives distributors access to some of the bigger lines that other distributor groups have already secured, or that individual distributors can't get because of the size of their business. For example, if there's a distributor whose volume is perceived to be low, many manufacturers would pass on the opportunity to work with that distributor. However, if a manufacturer is looking at a group — such as The EDGE Group, where we have 14 members in 15 territories — we can say ‘by signing with us, we bring you national coverage.' Security is another reason. Smaller distributors run the risk of losing an A-level product line for numerous reasons, even if they've had a long-term relationship with that manufacturer. However, being part of a buying group offers the smaller distributor security in the product lines that they carry as well as the opportunity to go out and land other lines that they might not have otherwise had access to. Also, a lot of manufacturers won't allow, or don't necessarily appreciate, having their close competitors in the same warehouse. However, if it's being done as part of a group, manufacturers may make allowances.

Pro AV:Are the big box consumer electronics retailers (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.) a threat to your members' businesses?

Schmoldt: Not at all. The retailers are going direct to consumers, and as distributors we supply dealers, integrators, etc. In many cases, the people we sell to are subcontractors for the Best Buys of the world. So there really isn't any conflict. In fact, many of The EDGE Group members have relationships with the big box retailers. Our main focus since our inception in 1999 has been strictly in the custom install industry with integrators and dealers.

Pro AV:How can a distributor join your group?

Schmoldt: First there has to be an opening in a territory, a need to expand within a current territory, or a need to realign our territories. The EDGE Group has always looked for members who fit our profile of being both an independent sales representative firm and a distributor. That's important to us because we approach distribution from a sales rep mentality, which means that we don't sit in our warehouses and wait for business to come to us. Unless you've been on the rep side of the world, typical distributors don't understand this dynamic. We also look for potential members that don't have conflicting lines already in place. We also look for members who have an established distribution firm already in place. If you look at the history of The EDGE Group members, most of them have been in business for at least 20 years. While we would embrace a new member that was a start-up, they would need to be able to hit the ground running, not only for us but for the commitment we make to each manufacturer in terms of our support of their line. The EDGE Group philosophy is that we'll only do business if we think we can meet or exceed volume requirements and expectations.

Pro AV:Would you consider adding commercial pro AV channel distributors to your group in the future?

Schmoldt: We certainly would. There are a lot of different channels that would make sense. We have a few members who have commercial business in-house, although that doesn't necessarily play into The EDGE Group. Right now, all of our territories are full, so there really isn't a need to add new members in those territories within our current channel. So the next logical step would be to look at other verticals.

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