Commentary: Time for a Reality Check - Modern Distribution Management

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Commentary: Time for a Reality Check


Christmas product offerings in retail seemed to start one minute after Labor Day this year. Perhaps there’s a lesson for distributors here.

This is, in fact, time for a reality check on where your customers are headed next year, their key concerns, and what the changes in their world mean for your relationship. To start a list of questions for your team to ask, consider the first few articles in this issue.

The pace of M& A in wholesale distribution is likely to stay strong, as it has this year. If you consider the scenarios in your market, how vulnerable is your company to the possible combinations? What are your opportunities and first steps if a big deal drops into your neighborhood? It’s worth discussing so you can position to quickly take advantage of the volatility that might/could/will occur over the next 12-18 months.

MSC last week said private label, national accounts and vendor-managed programs are key to its strategy in the coming years. Do you know how important these cost-saving or service programs are to your key customers? Have you engaged enough to know if there are any shifts in corporate procurement strategies that will impact the locations you serve? Do you have enough documentation on a quarterly or semi-annual basis to prove the value of the product selection, solutions, services and stability you deliver?

What’s the most important thing you want to know from your most important customers that you don’t know right now? How do you get the answer? How much visibility do you really have into your key customers? Is it deep enough to stay ahead of their needs and grow their business with you? Hopefully you started a question list before Labor Day. Regardless, it might be prudent to check it twice.

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