The size of both a BSC’s business and the buildings that it services are key factors in determining whether the contractor chooses to obtain equipment from a distributor or a manufacturer.

Smaller companies tend to buy from distributors, and larger companies often buy directly from the manufacturers, says Putnam. As the umbrella corporation for cleaning companies scattered across several states, Marsden prefers the latter.

Putnam believes that a strategic partnership with a manufacturer allows for more competitive pricing. Economic efficiency is a bonus when a BSC is based in more than one state, as a contractor is more likely to negotiate deals and have greater purchasing power, he says.

Fellows agrees.

“What happens is that the more you can buy, the less it costs per unit,” he explains. “If you only get one of everything, you will pay close to manufacturer suggested retail price — even through a distributor.”

Overall, Putnam believes the market is trending toward direct purchase from manufacturers, particularly for growing building service companies. 

“You have the depth and knowledge and educational skill set of the manufacturer helping you directly address your cleaning needs,” Putnam says. “For a smaller BSC, it is probably more cost-effective to purchase through distribution. Smaller BSCs tend to operate in a specific geography or state and so their needs can be supported best by a local distributor.”


Distributors May Offer More Personal Service, Equipment Maintenance

There are good reasons to deal with distributors, too, with perhaps the primary advantage being personal service. Even experienced BSCs require training before using new equipment. 

“In the case of distributors — you will virtually always get some free training that goes along with it to teach people properly how to use and care for it,” says Fellows.

Watson recalls a distributor who came to a job he had bid on and helped him to analyze the right type of floor equipment needed.

“A national company doesn’t have anyone on the ground,” Watson says. “Being able to talk to someone face-to-face and have a relationship with that person is a big benefit.”

Manufacturers may provide initial training, but may not provide ongoing hands-on education further on down the road. Distributors are more willing and able to help troubleshoot if or when something goes wrong with the equipmen, even if a BSC is experiencing troubles during an overnight job. 

Manufacturers do offer repairs, but they are generally not as flexible as distributors. Replacing parts is easier when a BSC has a local distributor, as a manufacturer may not have a local authorized dealer in the area.

“They can’t always be there in a matter of hours; that’s a drawback and you are taking that risk,” says Fellows.

Of course, the larger the company, the more likely they have multiple pieces of equipment at the ready, but being unable to finish a job due to a nonfunctioning piece of equipment is a possibility when a BSC is a small business owner.

Putnam posits that the manufacturer is the better choice when parts break down because they have direct expertise.

At the end of the day, the real distinction, says Fellows, is what sort of value a BSC receives in return for the money spent with a distributor versus a manufacturer. 

There can be a downside to being tethered to just one dealer, however.  

“The disadvantage of having a relationship with one particular distributor is sometimes innovations come from manufacturers, and that distributor doesn’t represent that manufacturer in the area,” Fellows says. “If you don’t know about it, you may lose an opportunity to improve,” floor care processes, he says.

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