To get a read on a channel that’s at the nexus of consumers and electronics, TWICE reached out to top distributors and distribution confederations. Their observations and insights form this virtual roundtable. This is Part 1. You can see Part II here.
TWICE: How’s business?
WARREN CHAIKEN, ALMO: Business is good. The economy is rebounding and the new 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has lowered taxes on our business, allowing us to reinvest in our company’s short- and long-term goals.
This includes giving back to our employees, boosting our technology infrastructure and building upon our partner relationships.
HELGE FISCHER, CATALYST AV: Business appears ready to explode. The Catalyst AV customers are telling us how busy they are, and as a result we’ve significantly increased our wire inventory.
The wealth and breadth of Internet-related products, the focused training with these products, and distributors being the go-to resource, has increased the demands placed on distributors.
Business for the Catalyst AV distributor has been very strong the last three years, and we expect the momentum to build through the summer/fall season.
TREVOR MAY, D&H DISTRIBUTING: D&H is pleased with its ability to deliver at- or above-forecast on its strategic business initiatives.
Our expansion into Canada continues to grow as well, increasing in the double digits year-over-year each quarter.
In addition, D&H is showing strong performance from its SMB [small- to medium-sized business] and VAR [value-added reseller] sides of the business, always a bright spot for us as a distribution partner.
FRED TOWNS, NEW AGE ELECTRONICS: Coming off a strong holiday sales season, momentum has continued for us in Q1.
TATE MORGAN, PETRA INDUSTRIES: Business continues to grow as Petra provides a balance of the latest technological innovation with the needs of our longstanding customer base, both in the e-commerce and traditional brick-and-mortar spaces.
DENNIS HOLZER, POWERHOUSE ALLIANCE: We have been fortunate in that business across all categories has been very good so far in 2018.
RICH HUME, TECH DATA: We can only speak to our most recently reported quarter [fiscal Q4 2018, ended Jan. 31 and reported March 8], which was a record quarter for our company.
Our customers and vendors continue to respond favorably to the value proposition of the new Tech Data — a global, end-to-end IT distributor with an unmatched products and services portfolio that spans from endpoint devices to specialized technologies to the most advanced data center solutions.
TWICE: Which products or categories are showing the most strength as we head into spring?
CHAIKEN: As we head into the spring, the major industry drivers are innovative high-end, luxury products. From Samsung’s QLED televisions and Family Hub refrigeration, to the new, first-ever Sharp vertical-motion touchless microWAVE drawer, to premium front-load laundry, these products are proving to show the most strength and are trending upward.
SETH EVENSON, AVAD: Outdoor audio is always strong this time of year. Applications that blend into the environment like Sonarray or Jamo’s Landscape series produce high-quality sound to outdoor spaces.
We’re seeing strength in outdoor video applications as well. Customers want the viewing experience outside their home to match the inside. Look at the Seura television, “escaping the indoors” for all weather conditions. The full line of Seura Outdoor displays feature 4K UHD picture quality and high-brightness panels — up to 55 percent brighter than previous versions. The Storm Ultra Bright now leads the outdoor display category with 1,000-nit brightness.
Outdoor A/V is growing in popularity relative to other spaces.
CURT HAYES, CAPITOL: The most robust categories heading into the second quarter are, not surprisingly, the same categories that have been the most relevant over the past few years, albeit at much higher levels of innovation.
The connected home only grows in relevance, especially as AI in the form of voice control becomes a more common feature on a wide variety of products. With that growth comes an even greater need for strengthening home networks with products that offer gigabit speeds.
This year we are seeing noticeable growth in sales of fiber optics. Fiber sends signals further and with greater bandwidth than traditional copper cable.
And in video, sales of 4K displays and projectors continue to excel, in both the consumer and light commercial sides of the custom business.
FISCHER: HDR transmission technology is very hot right now, with HDR HDMI baluns, switches, fiber [and the like] all showing significant activity.
MAY: We continue to see strong growth in the areas of connected home, PC gaming, mesh networking and large-panel 4K televisions.
TOWNS: As we head into spring, we anticipate to continue seeing success around home-control offerings, especially accessories that tie into digital assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. This includes products such as smart doorbells, robotic vacuums and universal remotes.
We will continue to see 2-in-1 computing devices perform strongly as well.
And as the weather warms up, we’ll see an uptick in products that consumers can take outside. It’s been a long winter and people are ready to hit the pool or beach with the latest waterproof speakers and headphones.
Recreational drones will also be popular as more people are able to get outside.
MORGAN: Both DIYers and custom installers are seeking smart solutions as homeowners take advantage of the warmer weather to make repairs and improve their properties.
We’re helping make homes smarter — not just through home automation products in our SmartestHome category, but by providing our customer base with across-the-board product solutions to get the job done.
With the success of this year’s International Home + Housewares Show, we see a lot of strength in this product category moving forward. Housewares is a stable, consistent seller any time of year, but small appliances are a great complement to house remodeling.
This time of year, our Out. Fit. category sees activity in hot-selling SKUs like flashlights and batteries, as well as the spring- and summer-friendly coolers and tumblers that will help keep customers hydrated in the coming months from top brands like Pelican, Thermos and more.
HOLZER: The categories that have shown the most promise are larger-size TV; networking; security/surveillance; and automation.
Customers in both the residential and commercial spaces continue to “cut the cords” as new wireless products are being introduced daily, and the smart-home category continues to boom.
With this growth, wireless devices such as cameras, routers, access points and mesh appear to show the most strength.
As customers add more wireless products to their systems, the need to strengthen and improve the network is equally important. We are seeing simultaneous growth in the networking products category as a result.
HUME: In the U.S. during Q4 FY18, sales to resellers serving the public sector showed strong growth, particularly within the state, local, federal and education verticals, while sales in our U.S. SMB sales division grew by double digits.
Looking ahead, we look to build on our momentum and help our customers capitalize on opportunities to bring more products to the consumer market, including interesting new products in the mobility space like AR/VR, connected home and personal audio devices.