On top of helping distributors manage their cash, industry wholesalers offer a breadth of offerings that help position distributors in a way that they continue to gain more business.

Industry wholesalers operate on the philosophy of providing numerous options within each product category so that distributors can select the vendor and program that best fits their selling strategy. This typically includes offering a diverse product catalog that spans beyond the traditional jan/san catalog of products.

“A wholesaler can provide a much broader product line or a very specific group of products that otherwise would not be available to smaller distributors without investing in enough inventory to meet manufacturer minimums,” says Moon.

Each wholesaler brings a unique value proposition based upon their channel focus. The more in-depth a wholesaler gets into a product category, the more unique offerings distributors have in their bundle. Because wholesalers have access to thousands of SKUs and various product categories from different sectors, distributors are able to earn extra business with current customers by selling them more than just cleaning products.

Today’s industry wholesalers afford distributors the option of bundling items such as foodservice, safety products, office supplies, and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) items together on one order with cleaning supplies.

As previously mentioned, this breadth of different lines also allows jan/san distributors to step outside of their traditional cleaning industry customer base and test the waters of a new market. As a result, wholesalers say their distributor customers have been able to make substantial gains.

Offering a plethora of products helps distributors gain a foothold in new markets. For example, a potential customer may not be interested in cleaning products, but may need foodservice or safety products. Having more entry points into the product catalog increases the chance of addressing every customer’s needs. A more robust catalog is appealing to most customers, especially since they have come to expect one-stop shopping from their vendors as a way to save time and money. Having more than one product line to sell customers also makes it easier to compete with large, national companies that have been siphoning business away from independent distributors.

For most distributors, expanding operations beyond the traditional jan/san catalog can be seen as a daunting task. Wholesalers help distributors assess which new product categories best fit their current operations and then follow that up with extensive sales assistance and training. Because wholesalers carry a full spectrum of product categories, they have a broader understanding of end users’ needs.

By teaming with wholesalers, distributors can gain a competitive advantage by selling private label lines, as well. Distributors are able to sell these products under their own private brands, helping them create a distinct identity. Often, distributors find that the products address customer needs for quality and value pricing.

Distributors aren’t alone in pushing out these new product lines. Wholesalers also act as marketing consultants for distributors. To help boost sales, distributors have access to wholesalers’ customized marketing of flyers, catalogs and Web content, which allows them to advertise and promote their products and services using the wholesaler’s resources at no additional cost. Basically, wholesalers do the upfront grunt work, while the distributor is left to focus primarily on selling and earning new business.

Wholesalers allow distributors the ability to test the waters of expansion with as little investment of time, money and effort as possible. With manufacturers placing order minimums and prepaid freight restrictions on distributor purchases, it’s only a matter of time before more independent distributors see the benefits to teaming up with wholesalers vs. purchasing direct. 

Nick Bragg is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. He is the former Deputy Editor of Sanitary Maintenance.

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