This year's State of the Industry Report uncovered several concerns from both manufacturers and distributors. The influx of salespeople displaced from the large direct-selling suppliers is broadening the independent side of the industry. Paper and energy costs continue to spiral upwards. What are the ramifications of the emergence of super-distributors and mega-manufacturers?
Despite competitive threats from quick printers and the "Directs," distributors state that any account that requires individual attention and service can usually be retained.
Although joining one of the super-distributors is an alluring prospect for many independents, the siren call falls on deaf ears for many small to mid-sized companies that want to maintain their own identities and set their own policies.
The super-distributors are more likely to attract former "Direct" salespeople who are comfortable working in a more structured environment.
The concerns with paper prices are that prices continually rise, and that the large manufacturers are less likely to feel the pinch because of the volumes they order. On the other hand, the large manufacturers are more likely to get contracts that include higher volumes but lower profits.
High energy costs affect everything: transportation, paper production, plastics used for products and coatings, ink, and heating plants and offices. Much of whatever is left will likely be gobbled up in increased health-care costs.
Despite all of these concerns, as the State of the Industry Report indicates, independents remain upbeat and positive about prospects for the coming years.