This is a part of the 2014 Distribution Trends Report. The annual report was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this report.
2014 Distribution Trends Report
Smaller, independent distributors are starting to adapt to the challenges of the marketplace. Smaller distributors, who have traditionally been slower in adapting to changes in the market, are now becoming more proactive. "A big trend that I see are those kind of small independent distributors really waking up to some of the marketplace challenges out there," says Roger Woodward, president of Alliance Distribution Partners LLC, Gallatin, TN. "Folks are changing their business and adapting to what’s going on with technology and the generational shifts that are occurring inside the business."
Another one of the ways these smaller distributors are adapting is through product expansion. "I really see this great awakening, if you will, of these smaller guys who got great businesses – who have been very niche focused – are starting to broaden out what they sell; they’re starting to change their model a little bit just to enable them to survive," Woodward says.
The market is moving towards a more transaction-centered focus. With e-commerce becoming more prevalent and customers expecting shorter delivery times, there is a "move to a transaction-centric approach, and I think all these things – multi-channel selling, e-commerce – all those are really just part-and-parcel of moving toward that transaction-centric model," Woodward says.
The sector continues to be ahead of the curve with regards to technology. Part of what's driving the transaction-focused shift in the market is the sector's early adoption of new technologies. “I think for our industry – jan-san – we are ahead of a lot of people," says Stewart Strauss, CEO of Strauss Paper Company, Port Chester, NY.
Strauss says that his suppliers have been supportive of Strauss Paper's tech push. He says the suppliers give Strauss their apps, so the distributor can get product information on the go. "It makes our presentation look professional; it's walking the talk, you can’t just talk the talk,” Strauss says.
Green products continue to be an important facet of the sector. The green movement is still a driving force in the sector. “It’s not new, but it’s continuing green with some new ideas on it, from renewable to alternative products,” Strauss says.