MDM has been asking readers about their top business concerns in our annual surveys for several years. Over the past few years, the economy has always topped the list.
The economy continues to be in mind in the latest survey, but it doesn’t appear to be top of mind any longer. Still, the ups and downs and uncertainties lingering from the past year seem to be driving what is top of mind for many wholesale distribution executives in the latest MDM survey: reducing costs and improving profitability.
To that end, many of the respondents said to be successful over the past two years, they’ve streamlined their footprints and increased their focus on pricing. Distributors are also homing in on their net working capital. They are still reluctant to hire, continuing to cross-train key staff to improve productivity.
But while improving efficiency continues to be important, many distributors also say they have invested in new initiatives – something we didn’t hear a lot about just a few years ago when reducing costs overshadowed nearly everything else.
Distributors have invested in technology to improve the way they manage their businesses and to improve customer service. They have added new lines and pursued acquisitions. Website improvements were also frequently cited by respondents as changes made over the past two years. Better data analysis capabilities were also important to many.
Besides the need to reduce costs and improve profits, the other top concerns noted in the survey included:
- Competition from national companies
- Making business less complex
- Better pricing
- Private label product push
- The changing role of field sales
- The integration of acquired companies
- Channel convergence
- Government regulations
- The cost of health care
- Finding skilled workers
- Keeping key employees
- Meeting training needs
- The trend toward national agreements
- Aging workforce
- Upgrading technology to keep up with the competition
- Managing inventory levels
- Supplier relations
- Trade credit
- Vendor consolidation
- Online competition
The 2013 Distribution Trends Report provides more detail on what distributors are thinking about and how they are positioning for the rest of 2013. The report is free to MDM Premium subscribers. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here.