The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Recommended Reading: Case Studies in E-Commerce, Recruiting, Product Mix & More

Ideas from distributors on how to respond to market shifts.
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MDM editors speak to hundreds of distributors every year; through those conversations, we uncover how distributors approach the work of differentiating in their markets.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the ideas we’ve featured, available in the MDM Archives:

How do you take advantage of one-time opportunities that arise, such as the $787 billion stimulus the U.S. government implemented after the recession hit? Electrical distributor WESCO created a team of about 30 people dedicated to monitoring and identifying economic stimulus-related opportunities and getting that information to the right people in field operations. WESCO’s story was featured in a montage of mini-case studies in the MDM article, Strategies for Recovery.

How can you expand product mix without the added cost of carrying more inventory? For San Antonio-based Labatt Food Service, the answer was collaborating with restaurant equipment and supplies distributor Ace Mart. Labatt shared with MDM how it approached that collaboration, which lets Labatt’s customers browse and select Ace Mart items through Labatt’s online catalog, consolidating their orders from the two distributors. Read more about that collaboration in the case study Expanding Product Mix. That case study was part of a larger series of articles on the Shifting Competitive Landscape in Distribution.

How can distributors balance their private label brands with national brands? ADI, a security and low-voltage products distributors with more than 200 branches, has built partnerships with existing suppliers where they have the volume base to provide the product. The partnerships have allowed manufacturers to provide product at a tier they are unwilling to position their premium brands in. Get more perspective from ADI and other distributors about the balance distributors must strike in the article Private Label & Channel Conflict.

How do you hit an ever-moving target like technology? Grainger’s take is that you plan to keep investing. Paul Miller, Grainger’s vice president of global e-commerce, told MDM in Behind Grainger’s E-Commerce Strategy that the distributor recognizes a long-term opportunity for continued evolution of its online platforms. “It’s not like there’s a one-time episode that you’re going to launch a new site, and we’re going to have 60 people working on this,” Miller says. Read more about Grainger’s approach to e-commerce. 

How can distributors stand out in the market for top talent at the entry level? Plastics distributor Laird Plastics of Boca Raton, FL, is proactive, working with Florida State University and the University of Washington’s sales education programs to recruit students. And it does not wait until students graduate. The distributor works with students early on to build name recognition, contribute to curriculum and bring students on as interns. Read about how Laird and other distributors have built strong recruiting programs in College Recruiting: Go Beyond Career Fairs.

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