Survey: AmazonSupply’s Impact on Distributors Low, but Curiosity High

Respondents to the MDM-Baird Distribution Survey aren't seeing major effects from the launch of the online industrial product platform.
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A year after its launch, interest in the long-term impact of AmazonSupply.com on independent distribution channels is still high. As a result, a special question – "Have you seen an impact on your business from AmazonSupply?" – was included in the first-quarter MDM-Baird Distribution Survey. Based on the responses, short-term impact has been pretty minimal – though it varies depending on the sector in which respondents operate.

Only 1 percent of respondents – primarily distributors (73 percent) and manufacturers (21 percent) – said they had seen a significant impact from the online distribution platform; 93 percent reported no impact. Higher impacts were felt by companies that serve janitorial/sanitation, PVF-water & sewer, plumbing and HVAC markets. Roofing, building materials, pool & spa, and gases & cylinder rental reported the lowest impact.

"While people are curious, we've only seen some small accounts here and there, not our core customers," said one respondent. Part of the problem, according to others, is that AmazonSupply just didn't have the needed quantity when it launched; it also provides limited support for products.

Read more about the potential long-term impact of AmazonSupply.com in What AmazonSupply.com May Mean for Independent Distributors.

The bigger threat to independent distributors is still the large nationals including Grainger, MSC and Fastenal, who have remained aggressive about taking market share and acquiring smaller independents.

One year isn't a lot of time to really assess what the long-term impact will be, and there are still concerns about how AmazonSupply will develop its platform and increase its reach going forward. "The bigger issue is how the manufacturers will respond," says one distributor. "Are they going to treat AmazonSupply as a different channel?"

Look for the results from the first-quarter MDM-Baird Distribution Survey in the April 25, 2013, issue of MDM Premium.

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