Future Shifts Await Industry Suppliers
Reflecting distributor sales, the Top 100 Suppliers are branching out to encompass multiple product lines. This year, the forms product category, as a percentage of Top 100 industry sales, is at its lowest point ever—38.5 percent of overall Top 100 sales, which reflects a drop of $18 million. Last year, forms sales of $1.27 billion reflected 38.5 percent of total sales. And, back in 2002, forms sales reached $1.36 billion.
Because the make-up of the Top 100 Suppliers changes every year, it is difficult to ascribe a trend to a one- or two-year direction. But, the days of forms domination of this industry seem surely numbered as suppliers branch out into numerous areas, including plastic cards, office supplies, promotional products and business services.
Another trend is occurring that makes predictions perilous. Several distributors are becoming large enough to handle national accounts. Companies, which were once the private feeding grounds of large direct-selling suppliers, are opting to have the more nimble distributors service their needs. This, in turn, could pull huge amounts of business into the independent arena.
If this is truly a trend and not just a few exceptions to the rule, this whole industry is in for realignment. A handful of distributors will dominate, commanding press time for multiple companies. New alliances between suppliers and distributors will be forged, and the entire industry could greatly expand.
It will be interesting to watch as this new trend evolves over the next two or three years. The Top 100s of 2007 could be radically different from those of 2004.