Several years ago, a TWICE editor was assigned a story on the current state of distributors in the retail industry. While researching, she spoke to a prominent player in the distribution universe and asked him about the importance of his role. He replied, “Our job is to ship boxes.”
Well, the days of distributors being glorified warehouse managers are over in the tech retail space. Distributors play an ever-more vital part of the technology ecosystem.
The current struggles of some prominent big-box retailers underscore that point. Independent dealers have been preparing for this day, when a couple prominent chains like Sears and hhgregg are closing stores and abandoning significant geographic markets, ceding market share. The indies are ready to pounce and they have two major tools in their tool belts, buying groups and distributors, often working hand in hand.
Inventory is everything if you ask an independent dealer, and which distributor that dealer chooses is very often determinant of how successful the bottom line turns out. And it’s not just product selection, it’s identifying the coming technologies and piecing together an ecosystem that can be merchandised with a relevant narrative to the consumer.
Smart home technologies in particular are in need of some careful curation. Distributors can take the time to talk the manufacturers, do the research, and bundle products that are connected by a common interface, whether it be a Google Assistant, or an Amazon Echo, or any other popular platform. That’s a valuable service to any retail client that is just trying to run the best store they can and maybe doesn’t have time to do all the technical specs homework.
Beyond that, distributors are often the primary fulfillment service for retail clients and their customers. Good quality inventory and shipping management is often above the average indie store owner’s means. Acting as an efficient bridge between customer and retailer is vital in maintaining that customer’s loyalty and creates the goodwill that can lead to repeat sales.
Beyond that, distributors provide and arrange for valuable education of sales floor personnel, who are flooded with new product on a weekly basis.
Check out 10 ways distributors can boost the bottom line of retailers. And be sure to check out our Distributors’ Roundtable, where we get the lowdown on the state of the business straight from those in the trenches. In addition, on our Margin Makers we identify 30 products that distributors (and, of course, retailers) should be embracing.
It’s VIP season!
The annual TWICE VIP Awards program has kicked off. The program is designed to call attention to the innovative products that are having, and will have, a significant impact on the tech retail scene this year. For details on the benefits of the program and how to nominate your favorite products, see below. If you have any questions, you can call or email me directly, or reach out to our publisher Ed Hecht.