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This is a part of the 2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue. The annual feature was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this issue.
2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue
Recruiting challenges reaching critical mass. Talent acquisition is a concern for most distributors, but it appears to be front of mind even more so for distributors in the jan-san sector. In the 2015 Market Trends survey conducted in April and May, every respondent in this sector cited it as the top concern. And the challenge is widespread, from truck drivers to sales staff and management. Because of limited internal resources, jan-san distributors are looking for outside sources of training, and manufacturers and associations are responding. ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, offers a broad range of trainings and certifications to its members, including a professional development program.
Competition from big-box giants grows, even as they consolidate. Staples recently reported that its facilities and breakroom business surpassed $1 billion – and is growing at an annual rate of about 20 percent. Facility solutions sales for Veritiv – the company created by the merger of xpedx and Unisource Worldwide in 2014 – also grew significantly, though much of that can be attributed to the merger. And these big-box competitors have said that it's an attractive area for growth.
The big-box landscape is still shifting. In early 2015, Office Depot entered into an acquisition agreement with Staples – but it is unclear at this point if the deal will be approved by the Federal Trade Commission.
Focus on product and service expansion intensifies. Because many of the core products are widely available, distributors are expanding products to offer more options to their customers – including private label – and offering more support and services, such as special labeling.
Changes in hazardous chemical labeling requirements in U.S. requires the attention of distributors and manufacturers. Under new rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, manufacturers of hazardous chemicals should already be in compliance with the new label requirements and providing the new safety data sheets. Distributors have until December to sell through any remaining products with the old label formats and should be providing the new safety data sheets to their customers.