This list reviews the 2013 fiscal year sales results for the companies represented and, for many, sales were relatively flat. Some notable companies even went backwards in 2013, and it's no surprise based on variables like confusing regulations, unemployment, and the October government shutdown. Unfortunately for those companies, 2014 kicked off with its own challenges, including a “polar vortex” that brought record low temperatures and froze many balance sheets as well. Not to mention, many small businesses still felt crippled by constant infighting at a federal level, as requirements remained in limbo.
Luckily, we have a chance to survey our audience extensively each year with our annual June Survey of Distributor Operations and I’m happy to report that, for many, mid-year 2014 outlooks were better. In fact, the number of those who cited the economy as one of their primary concerns was lower than it’s been since 2008. Nearly two-thirds had said their sales have increased, and over half said the same about their profits.
And if distributors use this opportunity to take on a strategy of growth, we’ll likely continue to see consolidation, product line expansions, more e-commerce functionality, and additional hiring. In fact, e-commerce was one challenge that, per our survey, is growing in its status as a primary concern. So is price competition, which suggests that many of these companies – The Big 50 all the way down to the Little 50 – are keeping a close eye on emerging online players like AmazonSupply and Alibaba. This may be why more of our Big 50 companies talked about IT investments when we asked them what they’d been up to this past year.
Other investments will likely come by way of consolidation, and many companies are taking an aggressive look at the market and how they can capitalize on the consolidation boom. With the right tools and resources, some of these companies will have every opportunity to achieve lift-off.