The Retail Dealers of America (RDA) postponed its debut convention and buying show in the aftermath of this month's catastrophic events, and it has tentatively rescheduled the confab for Nov. 2-4 at the Hotel InterContinental in Dallas, its original venue.
The nascent buying group's fair had originally been slated for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following the terrorist attacks. But after conferring with member dealers and the group's board of directors in the wake of the tragedy, president/CEO Deryl Sewell advised that the weekend show be canceled.
"People wanted to be home with their families, and we wanted our vendors home safe," he said. "As it turned out, many vendors were stranded at various events as transportation shut down. As the magnitude of the tragedy became apparent, we knew we did the right thing."
Sewell said he was touched by the determination of dealers, vendors and the InterContinental to get the show back on track. "There's a massive amount of detail involving the hotel, security and freight. It's an intense situation. But the vendor community has been great, and the dealers have been so supportive. They said 'Just tell us when, and we'll be there.' Everyone said 'Whatever it takes, we'll get it done.'"
He added: "We don't want to appear cold, or that we're not cognizant of the suffering, but we agree with President Bush. We don't want to be restrained because terrorists attacked."
RDA — formerly the Southwest chapter of Key America and, more recently, Brand Source/AVB — was able to contact each of its 342 dealers with news of the cancellation in just more than seven hours by phone thanks to a newly established call center at group headquarters here.
The call center is just one sign of the new group's commitment and growth. RDA is also preparing to open a technical training center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for members' repairmen as part of its strategy of "aggressively attacking the repair service side of the industry." Though long regarded as a stepchild of the business, Sewell sees repair service as a viable asset that can generate revenue while enhancing the value-added proposition of independent dealers.
Earlier this month RDA also launched its official Web site, located at www.RDofA.com, which is connected to the group's intranet and will begin b-to-b and e-tail operations with GE and Maytag shortly.
Despite the national setback, Sewell said his group is on a growth track, having added nine new Southeast members over the last two months, while dealers posted solid sales gains. "Before the tragedy, business was excellent, all categories were up," Sewell said. "But we have a great group, a great staff, and we're very positive. We have a plan and see growth for us going forward."