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Distributors Rolling With Punches Of See-Saw Sales

TWICE:How has business been this year?

Warren Chaiken, president and COO, Almo: Business has been strong in both appliances and consumer electronics. We saw a definite slowdown in mid-summer, but business picked up in late August and early September. Unfortunately, our dealers are facing a softer than expected market as we move into October.

Rob Kalman, VP, U.S. marketing, SED International: It has been a good year overall. We saw typical summer softness in various segments, but have seen strong pickup since and a positive outlook in general heading into the final quarter. Significant price drop expectations, especially on the HDTV side, have caused some softness as buyers wait for the lower prices, but this has also created excitement about the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Likewise, new product introductions slated for later this year and into next year, particularly on the computer side of the business, have caused some delays in purchasing decisions, especially driven by Microsoft Vista and Office 2007. However, the hardware is ready to go and Microsoft is rolling out programs and products that allow the consumer to buy now and not lose out later, so we expect strong computer sales in the fourth quarter. Strong areas for us this year have included GPS, flash memory, notebook computers, and larger-sized LCD and plasma displays, both for computer and CE.

Rob Eby, Director of Purchasing, D&H Distributing: D&H is still experiencing solid and steady growth across all channels. Business with our CE dealers is well up this year, as tier-one pricing for LCD panels starts to come down and new technology formats like HD-DVD and Blu-ray start to gain momentum.

Henry Chiarelli, senior VP, marketing and merchandising, DBL Distributing: DBL’s 2006 year-to-date performance has been positive across four critical areas. First, our customer base of independent retailers and online retailers continues to grow and has consistently outperformed industry expectations as sales have exceeded comparable periods over the previous year with solid double-digit gain. Second, our product lineup and representation of name brand manufacturers has grown to exceed more than 16,000 SKUs from 350 of the best brand names in the industry. Third, we just completed publishing, at 1,120 pages, the largest CE wholesale catalog in the industry. And fourth, our operations and employee base continues to expand as we address our consistent growth. We see the prospects for the balance of the year as very encouraging.

Fred Towns, senior VP, New Age Electronics: In 2005, New Age experienced double-digit growth, which was consistent with our growth in past years. For 2006, however, the consumer trend seems to be geared more toward conservative and careful price shopping. Gas and oil prices have definitely had an influence on the entire technology industry’s pricing, and consumers are shopping smarter and looking for values. In fact, we might be able to name 2006 “The Year of the Consumer.”

Kevin Kelly, VP sales and marketing, Stampede: [Business has been] great. We continue to expand the number of product lines we offer as well as the customer base that we serve. In addition to growing our core business, we have added fully bilingual sales reps that focus on the Latin American and Quebec markets, and added to the reach of our field sales force.

Bill Stewart, President, Petra: Business has been outstanding. The opportunities that arise every day just continue to amaze us. Not only do we continue to grow in all of our product categories, but our sales channels continue to grow as well. The company has grown exponentially in the past years, and every time we explore a different sales channel or product category, it opens ten more doors of opportunity to us.