As distributors take on more of the heavy lifting of getting product from manufacturers to retailers — and in some cases directly to consumers via Web services — these companies are dealing with more retail channels than ever before.
Custom installers and upscale A/V retailers have always been distributor staples, but now some distributors are getting involved with buying groups, national chains and regional electronics/appliance dealers.
Here is a selection of comments to TWICE on the subject from the distributors interviewed during the last couple of weeks:
Doug Rothman, executive VP, M. Rothman & Co.: “We've always covered plenty of channels, but growth for us has come from custom installers and CEDIA-type dealers, as well as 12-volt dealers. We are also focusing on specific national account partnerships.”
Mike Hench, president, The EDGE Distributors Group: “Our core customer has historically been the custom installer. However, we are now seeing more security and electrical dealers come to us for products and support as they are becoming more involved with whole-house integration.”
David Lorsch, president/CEO, DBL Distributing: “We started from specialty retailers and custom installers. Around 70-plus percent [of retail customers] are independent audio/video, photo and CE retailer type operations.
“We have been able to have sales increases with basically the same number of retailers year-to-year. We have also increased our presence with national chains, depending upon how they want to use us. We have great value, and ship multiple locations better than any manufacturer. We can expand product lines on the Internet, because the Web is not constrained by square footage. We can provide a more complete product package for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.”
Fred Towns, senior VP, New Age Electronics: “We are seeing more diverse customers, seeing more installer-type customers. We are serving more CEDIA-type installers more frequently, along with independent A/V retailers. Convergence is occurring, and as products become more connected, dealers need a more diverse product offering, so they are turning to us.”
Dan Schwab, marketing VP, D&H Distributing: “With the explosive growth in CE, we are serving a wide variety of retailers. Some manufacturers are geared toward alternative retailers that we helped put in the business. Our custom installer base has exploded, which has a lot to do with the fact that small retailers and installers need consulting on a variety of new technologies and selling solutions, such as video games, IT and how it all interacts with A/V systems. We must be a consultant and do what's right for retailers and manufacturers to provide good margins.”
Darren Marino, executive VP, BDI-Laguna: “As you probably know we have a strong working relationship with AVB/Brand Source, providing cross dock and many other services. We are seeing more, varied types of retailers entering CE. Clients change and we see food and drug chains getting involved, as well as office superstores offering more traditional CE products.”
Warren Chaiken, president/COO, Almo: “Almo has always worked closely with the independent dealers who are buying group members as well as with the buying group management teams, through our relationship with Electrolux and Frigidaire. Almo's relationship has grown dramatically over the last 24 months with the major buying groups, with more and more of our [appliance] retailers rediscovering consumer electronics, specifically display products.”
Vince Schuster, sales VP, Electrograph: “We have been developing relationships with custom installers, specialty retailers and integrators that focus on the home builders market. We have not experienced much growth with the electronics/appliance chains. However, some larger retailers are beginning to diversify their offerings through partnering with us on products that are not in their core business, using Electrograph on a virtual warehousing basis.
“With buying groups we work on the professional systems integration segment and are in discussions with some of the consumer electronics custom retailer and installer groups.”