2016 Trends Snapshot: Safety Distribution - Modern Distribution Management

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2016 Trends Snapshot: Safety Distribution

This article is part of MDM's 2016 Distribution Trends Special Issue. It provides a quick look at key trends affecting the safety products distribution sector.

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.

The full special issue is available to download in PDF format to MDM Premium subscribers. Subscribe below for full access. Or log-in if you are already a subscriber.


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

Consolidation throughout the supply chain continues to have an impact on how distributors go to market in the safety space. “Diversification is a key strategy for distributors, and we are seeing growing interest in safety,” says Marisol Fernandez, vice president of category management, safety for Bunzl. “We still view the market as extremely viable, and we are experiencing growth in different sectors.”

Distributors in other sectors are actively targeting safety as an area for growth. Many distributors report safety as an attractive product class for expansion, as most end markets have some need for safety products. Wurth Group's acquisition of New York-based Northern Safety and Industrial was one of the largest examples of this trend.

Balancing specialization and commoditization is a challenge for many safety distributors. Even though these products are required to save people's lives, they're often perceived as the same from product to product, one safety distributor told MDM. On the other hand, customers want products that are easier to use but more effective.

Private label products is a key target for safety distributors. Customers want products that represent their brands for use on job sites, so there is opportunity for distributors who can provide that personalization.

Training is critical with relation to safety, and it goes beyond proper usage of products. More distributors are expanding training services to accommodate the increased demand.

Mergers & Acquisition highlights in 2015:

M&A activity in the safety sector was brisk in 2015 for manufacturers and distributors.

3M acquired Capital Safety, which itself acquired Python Safety.

Mallory Safety and Supply acquired the safety distribution business of Sanderson Safety Supply Co.

Bunzl continued to build its safety presence with several acquisitions in 2015.

Wurth Group entered into the safety products market through its acquisition of Northern Safety and Industrial

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