Distribution model is not broken

Nigel Harris, director of Pump World in Swindon, adds his views to the debate on the future of distributors in the KBB industry

On the changing role of distribution, I agree with the views of Malcolm Scott [kbbreview, September, pg19], and would like to add a further couple of points to his analysis.

I think it’s important to consider how the internet has changed the landscape of modern-day distribution, particularly for the general distributor, now finding competition from European online wholesalers selling direct to the UK consumer and by-passing any existing channels.

Meanwhile, pursuing the brand leaders in this country is a double-edged sword for the distributor. Retailers tell me the branded product is an easy sell – “brand names sell themselves”. And, while that might be true, said brand names are also hugely popular online. Hence, I also receive complaints of sales lost to the internet and decreasing margins.

So, how does the distributor tackle this issue and keep the retailer happy? Clearly, supplying high-profile branded products to the retailer may suit the manufacturer, but how does it help the retailer survive profitably?

I believe there will always be a call for the specialist distributor. Here at Pump World, a specialist distributor of pumps and boosting systems, we have been running for over 27 years and have weathered many obstacles, including two recessions and the ever-increasing popularity of the internet.

For us, distribution is all about offering technical expertise, support and bespoke pump and shower solutions to our customer base that are own-branded and not readily available online. By working closely with the merchant and retailer, we can meet the performance and budget expectations of their client.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach distribution. For example, many distribution companies in Ireland sell direct as well as through the trade routes.

However, companies must be prepared to market themselves and the services they offer to the best of their ability. Mixing established brands with own-brand is an interesting solution that some companies employ to increase their average profit margin.

Finally, in answer to your July issue’s headline ‘Distribution: is the model broken?’ – I would say no, the model isn’t broken. Rather, it’s evolving, and only the fittest – and most adaptable to change – will survive.

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