03/02/09 — Southco CEO is named national marketing association chairman

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Southco CEO is named national marketing association chairman

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 2, 2009 1:46 PM

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Southco Distributing Co. CEO Sherwin Herring reads the trade publication for the American Wholesale Marketers Association that recently featured him in the cover story. Herring is the new chairman of the national association.

Sherwin Herring was 19 in 1971 when he started working for a $1.65 an hour in the warehouse at what was then Southern Wholesale. Now, 37 years later as CEO of the renamed Southco Distributing Co., Herring has just assumed chairmanship of the American Association of Wholesale Marketers.

"Fortunately I worked my way up and very fortunately was able to buy the company in 1996," said Herring, a native of the Parkstown community and graduate of the first class at Eastern Wayne High School in 1970.

The association represents companies from across the U.S.

As chairman, Herring will preside over association meetings. Herring, who will attend his first meeting in two weeks in Las Vegas, was featured in the cover story of the January/Ferbuary issue of the association's trade publication.

Serving in such leadership roles is important, said Herring, who has been on the association executive board for the past four years.

"It represents our industry, and I am a firm believer that if you are going to be in business you need to be involved," he said. "We have conventions and educational sessions. There is a lot of networking with different people across the country and this probably the best part of the whole thing.

"I've developed friendships with people all over the United States. If you run into an issue you can pick up the phone and call somebody and say, 'how are you handling this?' That is invaluable. In a tough difficult economy like we are in just to be able to call people and say, 'how are you handling this or what are you doing to cut cost or increase margins?'"

Southco was formed in 1981 when David Weil, Darby Wood and Ray Bryan bought out the old Southern Wholesale, he said.

"The old Southern Whole-sale goes way back to, I guess, the 1950s," Herring said.

Southco sells about 10,000 different items to convenience stores in seven states. It employs close to 200 employees and in 2008 had sales of about $273 million.

It has been a slow year, he said.

"Sales are down about 2 percent, but overall compared to a lot of other industries we are happy with that," he said.

Originally located on Patetown Road, the company moved to its current location on John Street two to three years ago.

"We were ranked in the top 50 in privately owned companies in North Carolina and ranked 22nd in the nation among convenience store distributors," Herring said. "That's not bad for a little company in Goldsboro, N.C."

Tobacco products account for 70 percent of the items the company distributes.

That could be a challenge in the future as the federal government asserts more control over tobacco products, he said.

Southco is also a member of the Southern Association of Wholesale Distributors that covers 14 states, the N.C. Wholesalers Associa-tion and the N.C. Conven-ience Stores Association.