Beyond buying, last month's NATM Buying Corp. meeting in Aventura, Fla., represented a changing of the guard for the 17-member group.
The annual conclave, the last for NATM veteran Saul Gold as founding executive director, also served as the official welcome for Bill Trawick, who will succeed Gold on January 1.
In remarks before NATM members and suppliers, group president Jerry Throgmartin explained that Trawick's appointment was designed to position the organization for continued growth in the next millennium.
"As we look at our transition into the new century, we're very pleased to have Bill join the organization in this capacity," Throgmartin said. "His experience and background are well-suited to help us into the new century."
Throgmartin also deflected suggestions that NATM had "stolen" management talent from its member ranks. "We wouldn't have an organization very long if that was the case," he said, adding that Trawick's "number one priority and only obligation" is to Conn's, where he will continue to serve as VP through July.
Throgmartin also squelched rumors that NATM is moving its headquarters offices out of New York and changing its membership standards. "There aren't plans to move the of-fice," he stated. "Bill and Warren [director Warren Mann] are in New York, that's the integral part of the buying group. And there are no changes in membership or criteria."
Finally, Throgmartin acknowledged the "tremendous debt of gratitude" that NATM owes Gold, which evoked a sustained standing ovation. "This is a group that several times in its history teetered on the brink of extinction. Due to his efforts, he held it together and made it what it is. The foundations for our opportunity as a retailer were laid by Saul Gold."
Quoting American's Dave Shepard, Throgmartin added that "heading a buying group is like herding cats, except cats would be simple compared to independent retailers."
Gold will remain executive director through year's end, when he will step down after nearly 30 years in that role.