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HVACR Distributors Tap Into European Group

The PTDA is not the only organization reaching across the Atlantic. Heating, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International executive vice president and COO Donald Frendberg recently addressed European distributors at the 48th FEST Congress (European Federation of the Sanitary and Heating Wholesale Trade) in Portugal. The conference brought together more than 170 attendees from 11 European countries.

Frendberg and HARDI President Bill Shaw of Standard Supply and Distributing Co., Dallas, TX, attended the Mostra Convegno Expo Comfort in Italy earlier this year, where they were first introduced to FEST. “We attended the show in Milan to better understand the European distribution industry and to determine if a global alliance was possible within the wholesale industry,” Frendberg said.

Frendberg later spoke to the FEST Congress about issues in distribution in North America: “The most significant aspect of the overall Congress was the realization that the issues faced by European distribution are virtually a carbon copy of the situations in North America. Concerns with consolidation, finding qualified personnel, improving efficiency, cost reductions, technology implementation and the extension of service offerings are common to all distribution no matter the country or continent.

“In a way it’s good to know we all share common issues, however it also emphasizes the need for greater cooperation in finding collective solutions as globalization continues at a rapid pace.”

FEST is planning a trade mission to the U.S. in 2007. Frendberg told MDM that the goal of that trip is to share how operations work in the U.S., and how distributors here are dealing with sales and training issues, as well as the implementation of technology.

“In some ways the two markets are different,” Frendberg says. Europe has smaller individual markets with different languages and cultures, while the U.S. market is open and expansion opportunities vast.

HARDI has other global plans as well. For the first time, it is planning a visit to the China Refrigeration Show. Its goal there: to promote wholesale distribution to Chinese manufacturers in the hopes they will use distributors when doing business in the U.S. Manufacturers in China don’t have a strong understanding on the value of the distribution channel in the U.S.

“Our mission is to educate and perpetuate wholesale distribution. This is really just global outreach on that mission.”

FEST has 2,000 members, comprising 5,500 branches, 150,000 employees and more than 50 billion euro in annual sales. The organization represents wholesalers in plumbing, sanitary and HVACR products.

MDM Interview: Cross-Border Collaboration

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