The Distributors Channel Evolves
Distributors are the essential equalizers that allow small and medium-size photo retailers to compete on a level playing field—and they’re reinventing themselves to stay relevant.March 2013 By Jason Schneider
In an age of incredibly shrinking profit margins, rapidly changing technology and a slow-growing economy, distributors enable photo specialty retailers and other small and medium-size retail channels to compete successfully with big-box stores, large consumer electronics chains and Internet aggregators. In the current retail environment, they are still playing a pivotal role, providing important benefits to retailers and vendors alike by configuring, executing and supporting more effective, efficient and profitable business strategies and working relationships.
Distributors are deeply involved in helping retailers like you maintain lean inventories, enabling you to tailor your ordering requirements to your immediate needs rather than the demands of manufacturers and suppliers. They can help you optimize your product mix to suit rapidly changing conditions—and reap the benefits of just-in-time shipping programs. They’re also deeply involved in promotion, sales and service at both ends of the business, providing the knowledge base and financial infrastructure that deliver maximum flexibility plus the obvious benefits of bulk pricing for smaller orders.
Typically, distributors also provide a wide range of business services, such as marketing analysis keyed to your store’s demographics, timely updates on the latest products and trends, and a host of management skills. Many also handle operational details ranging from returns and credit approvals to invoicing—even collections.
While they’re definitely in business to make a profit, for many independent imaging resellers what they provide is well worth it and makes perfect business sense. In short, a good distributor maximizes your flexibility and agility so you can run your business smoothly, efficiently and predictably, despite the inevitable economic ups and downs.
For a clearer picture of how distribution is evolving, how distributors are responding to changing trends in the imaging marketplace, and an overview of the hottest emerging product categories, marketing strategies, services and convergent products, we interviewed five leading distributors and asked them to give us their candid views. Here’s what they had to say.
Mark Roth, President and CEO, Argraph Corporation
Argraph is celebrating its 60th year, and we’ve been able to succeed by hewing to the traditional values that retailers demand—fast, complete delivery, sourcing new and profitable products, providing information that keeps dealers current, and of course great customer service. We represent about 50 accessory brands, many of them exclusive to us, including Pana-Vue, Sirui tripods, Marumi filters, Samigon accessories and Pixel (professional flash triggers, remote controls, etc.).