Buying Groups Assist Distributors In Changing Market

With the jan/san industry’s ever-shifting landscape, buying groups have been forced to adapt — and quickly. Challenges ranging from e-commerce to consolidation have altered the needs of jan/san distributors. Here’s how buying groups have adjusted to keep pace.


Dick McGann
President and CEO
Strategic Marketing Alliance
Charlotte, North Carolina

Michael Wilson
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Zachary Haines
DPA Buying Group

Mark Prosser
Vice President of Sales
Hudson, Ohio

Ty Huffer
Senior Vice President of Sales
The United Group
Monroe, Louisiana

1. What are the greatest challenges facing your members?

McGann: SMA members are strong entrepreneurs that tend to see challenges through the lens of opportunity. An example of this is the evolution of customer shopping and buying behaviors toward digital and technical paradigms, which poses challenges to traditional feet-on-the-street sales and marketing investments. Left unaddressed, the question of sales force adaptability to new technology and changing buyer habits can be a double whammy for the distributor. Millennials and Gen Zs are self-sufficient through the first two thirds of the buying cycle, so SMA and its members are working to build strength and presence of brands online to drive recognition early and throughout the buying cycle.

Wilson: I believe AFFLINK members are not unlike any distributor in the marketplace today. What keeps them up at night is the continued onslaught of emerging national competitors, margin compression brought about by the big boxes, logistics providers and national cooperatives, and the evolution of discount online shopping in the B2B arena. 

Haines: The greatest challenges that DPA members face are increased competition from the “big box” stores and large internet retailers (e.g. Amazon, etc.), cash flow management and managing employees.

Prosser: The two greatest challenges our members face are finding and retaining talent and the surge of large, national non-jan/san competitors into our markets. 

Huffer: Our members want to know how to compete more effectively in the e-commerce marketplace against non-traditional distributions channels, such as Staples, Grainger and Uline. The United Group is working to educate members about the tools and options that we and our preferred suppliers can offer to help them.

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Jan/san Distributors Face New Challenges