May 10, 2010 - Modern Distribution Management

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May 10, 2010

Economic Outlook for Distributors

Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., of Pembroke Consulting, recently reported his outlook for 2010 in an MDM Webcast. He provided an overview of macroeconomic conditions, data on sales and inventory trends for distributors, and major end market and sector trends. Here’s a summary of that Webcast, exclusively for MDM Premium subscribers.

The good news: We are in the midst of a recovery. Bad news: The aftereffects of the recession will last for a number of years. That was part of Adam Fein’s message in a recent MDM Webcast, “Growth Planning for 2010: Economic Update with Adam Fein.”

“It’s not going to feel as robust as previous recoveries because of some of the overhang, but it is going to be a recovery,” Fein said. “It is going to be growth.”

Commentary: Growth in 2010 Will Require a Careful Balance

I’ve been using a saying attributed to Warren Buffet this spring in presentations to groups about current markets: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” At this point, the more appropriate saying might be: “You can drown when the tide rises above your head.” The Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection filing by Alamo Iron Works on April 5 was triggered by what the company alleges was non-payment of $1 million for work by a large customer.

This is not likely to be an isolated incident. Increased sales are great, but I’m hearing about difficulties with supplier lead times, financing inventory and cash flow.

US LBM Holdings Emerges on Scene

MDM spoke with leaders from the fast-growing US LBM Holdings to learn more about the new holding company’s business model and its growth by acquisition of building materials and lumber distributors.

The new player in the building materials world hasn’t wasted any time making its name known. US LBM Holdings was created in October 2009 when private equity firm BlackEagle Partners stepped in to purchase three markets that Stock Building Supply had slated for closure. Those three markets had 13 locations.

L.T. Gibson, president and CEO of US LBM Holdings, had worked with Stock Building Supply for around 20 years, most recently as the vice president of the north and central divisions, when the closures were announced. “I started talking with private equity firms to see if there was someone who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that was being created,” he said.

First Quarter Inflation by Commodity Group

These select product groups provide a snapshot of inflation trends based on the Producer Price Index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. First quarter 2010 is compared with first quarter 2009, and fourth quarter 2009 with first quarter 2010. To access, premium subscribers should ensure they are logged-in to download the pdf below.

The product groups in this report:

Adhesives & Sealants
Cutting Tools & Accessories
Hand & Edge Tools
Power-Driven Hand Tools
Ball & Roller Bearings
Mechanical Power Transmission Equipment
Valves, Except Fluid Power
Pumps, Compressors & Equipment
Electrical Machinery/Equipment
Industrial Material Handling Equipment
Industrial Gases
Welding Machinery/Equipment
Fluid Power Equipment
Plumbing Fixtures & Fittings
Sanitary Paper Products
Plastic Resins & Materials
Specialty Cleaning, Polish & Sanitary Products
Industrial Safety Equipment
Softwood Lumber
Metal-Forming Machine Tools
Metal-Cutting Machine Tools
Hardboard, Particleboard, Fiberboard Products
Hardwood Lumber
General Millwork
Construction Products from Plastics
Gypsum Products
Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Equipment
Tools, Dies, Jigs, Fixtures, Industrial Molds
Fluid Power Valves

A pdf of these graphs is linked below for premium subscribers. If you do not see the link to Download pdf, log-in to first.

Download this Issue: MDM May 10, 2010

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