Distributors believe they can compete with the big e-tailers by offering add-on services — including VMI software — superior to what any e-tailer is willing, or perhaps able, to offer. And they just might have to operate this way.

“The local distributor has to look to compete in areas that Amazon cannot because they can’t win with just the pick it, pack it, ship it game,” says Dan Kaminstein, senior product manager, Epicor Software Corporation.

Services that can help distributors “win” include emergency service, drop-ship deliveries and a point-of-contact whenever a question comes up.

Providing more add-on services is especially important when dealing with big accounts, says Bob Hestenes, president, Step1 Software Solutions.

 “Well, first of all it’s the larger accounts that superior service matters to,” says Hestenes, adding that smaller accounts might well go to the e-tailer anyway. “But larger accounts generally recognize and need our distributors — particularly for problem solving.”

Most distributors provide more when it comes to selling big-ticket items like floor machines and equipment, says Randy Lane, who handles distribution sales for PIC Business Systems. Though one might be able to purchase the same floor machine for a cheaper price via an e-tailer, it won’t offer the training a distributor will often provide to the end user’s crew. If that floor equipment needs some maintenance later on, a distributor might offer up a repair whereas with an e-tailer, well, an end user better pull out the yellow pages and search for a handyman.

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Vendor Managed Inventory Software Benefits Local Distributors