As news of the virus spread, distributors were blindsided by the demand for supplies. Many expected the initial surge in sales to subside along with the panic, but the influx of orders remained steady.

“Since February, we have seen record-breaking orders for necessities like hand sanitizers, disinfectants, disinfecting systems and personal protective equipment,” says Grego. “Those sales are still peaking and we now believe this just may be our new normal.”

The sudden change in people’s habits affected myriad products, in particular propriety and cartridge-based items. Hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and disinfectants are in short supply or on back order — and distributors are under pressure to find solutions quickly.

In the absence of specific brands, many distributors are sourcing off-brand inventory or finding alternatives that allow customers to bridge the gap.

“Given so many brand name products are backordered indefinitely, we have spent tireless hours trying to source products for our customers that meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines,” says Grego. “We make sure we tell our customers what we have available now and offer an estimated time of arrival on name brand items so that they can decide for themselves.”

Some manufacturers are allocating stock to distributors, who are in turn providing products to their customers in the hopes that everyone can get a share. Similarly, some manufacturers are requiring prepayment for large orders — and many distributors are requiring the same of their customers.

The pandemic is also forcing distributors to think outside the box and find creative solutions to tide customers over.

“It’s difficult to get anything in the category of wipes,” says Martini. “If you’ve got a facility that would prefer a treated wipe, for example, you may have to give them the option of a liquid disinfectant and a disposable paper wipe. We can still give customers a solution so that they have a safe place to work and serve their occupants.”

previous page of this article:
Adapting To Changes In Distributor Services
next page of this article:
New Pandemic-Induced Customer Needs