2018 Top 50 Distributors: Stats, Trends and Key Takeaways From the Data
It was a good year to be a distributor in the print and promo space. According to our data, overall revenue for the 2018 Top 50 totaled $3.58 billion for the most recently completed fiscal year, a 2.61 percent increase over our 2017 list’s $3.50 billion tally. That number would have been even higher if it had included numbers from SI Solutions Inc. (now part of The Sourcing Group), thumbprint, DataSource and other leading distributors that declined to report their earnings to us directly.
Of the 47 returning distributors:
- 27 had revenue increases.
- 17 had revenue decreases.
- 3 finished evenly.
Those who have been tracking our lists will recognize the familiar names comprising the top five. With the exception of Proforma, which finished evenly, all enjoyed financial gains—the largest belonging to InnerWorkings Inc. The Chicago-based firm tacked an additional $47.7 million to last year’s totals. From our vantage point, 2018 proved to be quite the year for InnerWorkings. The billion-dollar-plus firm was no stranger to headlines ... not all positive. There was the C-suite shake-up, starting with the resignation of Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey P. Pritchett. As published in a press release, Pritchett’s immediate departure was due to personal reasons unrelated to the company’s “business, operations, financial performance or financial reporting.” In February, it was announced that Rich Stoddart would be succeeding longtime InnerWorkings President and CEO Eric Belcher, the latter of whom was transitioning to the role of executive chairman of the board of directors. Stoddart previously served as global president of Leo Burnett Worldwide, touted as one of the world’s largest and most awarded global advertising agencies.
Then, things got even more interesting. On May 7, InnerWorkings revealed that it would restate its historical financial statements for fiscal years ending Dec. 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, along with all interim periods within those time frames, due to accounting errors. In a statement, the company maintained that the mistakes related “primarily to recording a portion of costs of goods sold in the wrong period, and have no material impact on InnerWorkings’ cash flow, revenue or liquidity.” As a result, the company also delayed the release of its first quarter 2018 financial results and conference call, prompting NASDAQ to send a noncompliance letter.
Since the news broke, the distributorship announced some major contract expansions, most notably with a major player in the beer, wine and spirits vertical; and another with a leading manufacturer of consumer goods, specializing in cleaning products.
The 2018 list did feature three newcomers: Innovative Print & Media Group, a Safeguard Company (No. 48), Safeguard Solutions, a Safeguard Company (No. 49) and International Printing Solutions (No. 50).
In the meantime, here are a few other fun stats we saw in our analysis:
- In addition to InnerWorkings, several other distributors posted notable revenue increases from 2017 to 2018. American Solutions for Business reported a 6.56 percent increase, rising from $267.4 million to $284.9 million; iPROMOTEu increased sales 10.3 percent from $157.8 million to $174.0 million; and HDS Marketing improved numbers by an impressive 34.8 percent from $22.4 million to $30.2 million, jumping six spots in the ranking.
- In all, 22 U.S. states were headquarters to at least one distributor in the Top 50. Ohio led the way with six distributors calling it home, while California and Minnesota each had five. Ohio and Minnesota, respectively, appeared twice within the top 10 alone. Nine other states appeared at least two times on the list, leaving 10 states that had a single distributor.
- This year’s Top 50 distributors employed more than 7,000 workers. InnerWorkings led the way with 2,086, while DiscountMugs.com employed 1,100 and American Solutions for Business employed 1,035. Of the Top 50, the distributor with the smallest staff was International Printing Solutions at 10 employees. Fifteen of the Top 50 distributors had a staff size in the triple digits or greater.