The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Commentary: Never Say Never

Never say never. It was only five years ago when U.S. industrial markets were in the deepest trench anyone could remember. Customers were shutting plants and moving offshore. Private label was going to put all known brands out of business. Nearly every conversation about the largely ignored industrial downturn in this country included the phrase: It will never be as good again.


You can argue there are fewer distributors serving fewer customers than ten years ago, but look at the growth of industrial distributors the past four years. Overall, most sectors have enjoyed double-digit growth into 2007, and from anecdotal reports, many distributors are pleasantly surprised&nbsp ; that sales haven't started to luff sooner.

Industrial markets look different today, but ...

Never say never. It was only five years ago when U.S. industrial markets were in the deepest trench anyone could remember. Customers were shutting plants and moving offshore. Private label was going to put all known brands out of business. Nearly every conversation about the largely ignored industrial downturn in this country included the phrase: It will never be as good again.

You can argue there are fewer distributors serving fewer customers than ten years ago, but look at the growth of industrial distributors the past four years. Overall, most sectors have enjoyed double-digit growth into 2007, and from anecdotal reports, many distributors are pleasantly surprised&nbsp ; that sales haven’t started to luff sooner.

Industrial markets look different today, but through a combination of consolidation and growth opportunities into tangential areas, distributors have built healthier businesses than pre-2003. Many shed the dominant customer who offered big sales volume but handcuffed profits and, perhaps more importantly, incentives to find alternate growth paths. Many diversified successfully into construction markets.

In fact, many specialty distributors benefited from consolidation of larger competitors. Customers in most markets have clearer and fewer choices for specific services and specialized products.

In this context of industrial and construction markets that have shifted significantly, the play for Hagemeyer’s North American business makes sense. For Sonepar, a company heavily dependent on construction contractors, Hagemeyer’s core business into U.S. industrial markets offers a hedge against its dependence on the health of construction in its established regional markets. But U.S. industrial markets will never be attractive again, will they?

About the Author
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to MDM’s Privacy Policy.

0

articles left

This is your last free article

Subscribe to MDM Premium today and get:

  • Unlimited access to MDM.com
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events

2

articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to mdm.com, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events

1

article
left

You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on mdm.com
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.