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Fred Towns On The New Age Of Synnex

The distributor marks the partnership’s 10th anniversary.

It’s been 10 years since Synnex, the global supply-chain resource, acquired IT and CE distributor New Age Electronics from co-founders Adam Carrrol and Lee Perlman in a $54 million cash deal.

Within three years, former Panasonic exec and New Age senior VP Fred Towns succeeded Carrol as president, and the rest, as they say, is history.

TWICE caught up with Towns on the anniversary of the acquisition, to discuss the changes that the decade has wrought, the change in technologies to come, and the Synnex-New Age synergy.

TWICE: What brought Synnex to New Age?

At the time, our product mix was more on the IT side. The digital bridge was spreading; more products were becoming digitized; and companies were beginning to downsize their facilities, let their employees work from home or bring their devices to work.

Synnex looked at the marketplace trends and emerging digital platform, and saw an opportunity in retail for road-warrior equipment. They had a small retail business, but we were already providing a high level of service to large- and medium-sized retailers as well as mom-and-pops.

They ramped up very quickly after the acquisition. Remote working and the home office changed everything.

TWICE: What did Synnex bring to the party?

They are really good at capturing data. They had open-to-buy horsepower and could extend credit to customers. They also had relationships with the same vendors we did, like HP and Canon, except their business was on the commercial side, and much larger. It made all the relationships stronger.

In addition, there were many categories we didn’t have access to at the time, like peripherals, printing and accessories. It opened up a plethora of opportunities for us.

Conversely, we had consumer products that could lend themselves to the enterprise side, as road warriors began asking for thinner, lighter and more stylish devices.

TWICE: How have work-from-home trends evolved since then?

Today median incomes are up; you have both homeowners working out of the house, and work hours are changing radically. So opportunities in home automation are expanding, including voice- and whole-home control.

Remember when remote car starters were considered futuristic? Now you can control your entire home without leaving your desk — lighting, thermostat, music. The conveniences are so much more powerful.

TWICE: What advice do you have for brick-and-mortar retailers?

You need to build out new reasons for shoppers to visit you, because if you don’t evolve, you will die. The last 10 years has proven that if you didn’t develop a multichannel strategy, you went out like the dinosaurs. Now, with a virtual “endless aisle” of inventory, you never have to say no to your customers.

TWICE: Your track record shows a knack for sniffing out new trends. What’s your secret?

It’s the best part of the job, looking for the new, the exciting and the invigorating. You have to love tech and you have to listen; you learn a lot by listening. I learn from my customers and my teams. They’ll come back and say, “You have to see this,” or, “What do you think about that?”

Then I consider how it could play into our business — whether it fits into our model or whether our model has to adjust.

And if you see something great and your vendor partner isn’t doing it, you go to them and say, “What are you doing about that?”

TWICE: What do you think the next 10 years will hold for New Age and Synnex?

Right now, things are very positive in the U.S., and there’s a lot of excitement out there over technologies that used to be “Star Trek” tech. If tariffs challenge that, I hope the leadership makes the right decisions and works it out.

But looking out over the next 10 years, bandwidth, transportation, healthcare and education will all radically change, whether it’s the impact of 5G, augmented reality or some new smart device.

Regardless, we’ll be there as a company with the tools to meet all those challenges and new directions for consumers and business.