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Mini trade show a big hit

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In an industry seeing an influx of online and national corporate competition, Yellowknife's Bartle and Gibson Co. Ltd. saw last week that its customers still prefer business face to face.

NNSL photo/graphic

Behind branch manager Wade Makaro, right, customers check out the tables at Bartle and Gibson Co. Ltd.'s 10th annual mini trade show on Wednesday. - Thandiwe Vela/NNSL photo

The plumbing, heating and electrical wholesale company held its 10th annual mini trade show last Wednesday outside its School Draw Avenue location. An estimated 200 customers went table to table throughout the lunchtime event, where 24 suppliers from across the country were on hand.

"It's grown bigger and bigger every year for sure," said branch manager Wade Makaro, noting Bartle and Gibson suppliers came from as far as Toronto, Quebec, and New Brunswick for the event.

"It shows my customers that they can get support," Makaro said. "Sometimes they have talked to these people over the phone, but it's nice putting a face to the person they talked to on the phone.

"Every vendor had a table so they were able to check out new products and see what they had to offer."

Bartle and Gibson has been in Yellowknife since 1967, and has weathered recession, the freight challenges of its Northern location, and more competition.

"Every year we seem to grow," Makaro said, despite noting "from the wholesale end, there's more people out there trying to get their cut of the pie."

The company, which sells wholesale and retail products all over the territory and Nunavut from hundreds of suppliers, has also seen a huge increase in the variety of products on the market today.

"Instead of one brand of kitchen faucet, we could get 10 or 20 different ones. So it helps the customer with a better variety of products to choose from," Makaro said.

While many people travel down south and buy there, the company tries to sell as much as it can here, Makaro said, "to keep it in the North."

Between two buildings, Bartle and Gibson has 15,000 square feet of inventory on site, and the annual trade show is the main event for showcasing new products.

The trade show last week also featured training seminars for oil tanks, boilers, plumbing, and industrial tubing.

Longtime customer Randy Steele, who runs his own plumbing and heating business in Yellowknife, has attended Bartle and Gibson's mini trade show for the past five years to check out new products, he said.

"There's always new training, products and information," Steele said. "They treat me well."

Customer service, and competitive pricing through its buyer groups are the keystones of the company, said Robert Whitty, president and CEO.

"We believe in customer service 100 per cent," Whitty told Yellowknifer. "We believe in customer service and that's what our company's built on.

"Anybody can buy it on the Internet nowadays or go online but we're supporting the community of Yellowknife by having a branch there and it's a personal relationship. The customer deals with an individual versus a computer screen. You know who you're dealing with."

The plumbing and heating wholesale company was started in 1944, in British Columbia.

Bartle and Gibson is a 100 per cent Canadian-owned company with 31 branches across Western Canada.

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