This is a part of the 2016 Distribution Trends Special Issue. The annual feature was researched and written by MDM based on interviews with dozens of distributors, industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this issue.
2016 Distribution Trends Special Issue
Distributors in other sectors are actively targeting jan-san as an area for growth. “We’ve seen new entrants as well as increased focus and attention in the jan-san space,” says Mike Bohannon, senior vice president of corporate strategic sourcing for Bunzl. “One example is the addition and expansion of jan-san specialists in various channels. The jan-san category has become attractive to other niche distributors, such as office product suppliers, industrial suppliers and large online retailers. ”
Competition from big-box giants also grows. Staples reported that its facilities and breakroom business posted double-digit gains in 2015, and this segment helped offset declines in other parts of the business.
The role of marketing is shifting for this industry. Smart distributors recognize the role marketing can play to differentiate them from other competitors, according to John Garfinkel, executive vice president for worldwide cleaning association ISSA (issa.com). "We are witnessing a drastic adoption of marketing software, more customer-focused web design and tech-enabled field sales reps," noted one distributor respondent to the 2016 MDM Market Trends Survey. "However, our top local competitors have not shown any significant improvements or investments in these channels."
Recruiting challenges reaching critical mass. Talent acquisition is a concern for most distributors, but it appears to be front of mind even more so for distributors in the jan-san sector. Part of that is the nature of the cleaning industry, according to Garfinkel. "No one says they want to grow up and be a janitor," he says. But it's up to the industry to demonstrate that there is a solid career path for and an opportunity to make a living.
Because of limited internal resources, jan-san distributors are looking for outside sources of training, and manufacturers and associations are responding. For example, ISSA has expanded the training options available at its annual ISSA Interclean convention to meet growing demand.
Sustainability has replaced green as the descriptor of choice for environmentalism. “Sustainability is relevant and, over time, we believe it has become table stakes,” Bunzl's Bohannon says. “A lot of people almost assume that you have the right sustainability story out of the gate. As a result, some suppliers are starting to explore alternative product sources, such as bamboo instead of pulp paper.”
A focus on products that provide a healthy environment for workers has surpassed "green" products as a priority. Customers want more visibility into what's in the products they are using and how that will affect them, according to several survey respondents.
Mergers & Acquisition highlights in 2015:
Bunzl continued to focus on growing its jan-san business with several acquisitions in 2015.
Brady Industries LLC acquired Nevco.