Editorial: Industrial Distributors Primed to Take Their Foot Off the Brake

With 2022 off and running, it’s apparent that some already have.

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In Wisconsin, Winter is the time of year where we double up on the Vitamin D (and for some, the beer) and try to ignore the freezing temps by hunkering down and focusing on the tasks at hand.

As we put our latest print issue to bed, it’s was mid-January and the preceding weeks were chock full of interviews with industry experts sharing their operational successes. Personally – and despite the frigid darkness that encompasses an early new year in the Midwest – I can’t help but feel a boost.

That’s because the industrial distribution world is — for lack of a better term — moving and grooving.

Anna Wells, ID Executive EditorAnna Wells, ID Executive EditorA year ago, our January/February issue featured some timid optimism but, predominantly, a lot of wait-and-see. Keep in mind, the rollout of the COVID vaccine was just getting underway this time last year, and while analysts were pointing to impending growth, we saw it through the lens of disruption and a ravaging virus that had claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 Americans in the first month of last year alone. Despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, it’s clear that we’ve made some progress. And despite the Big 3 variables that have been troubling businesses in many sectors (supply chain challenges, talent shortages and inflation), the feeling this year is somehow…different. And we’ll showcase that in our new magazine issue:

  • In an exclusive interview with new ISA president Brendan Breen (page 34), we learn more about the association’s recent activities, including a preview of the first in-person ISA annual convention in two years. According to Breen, ISA members are sharing that they’re “setting a pretty bold course for 2022. People are setting budgets, thinking outside-the-box and being innovative in this space.”
  • On page 18, Motion CEO Randy Breaux provides some details on the company’s industry-shattering acquisition of Kaman Distribution Group, completed in early January. The aggressive move – which is anything but “wait-and-see” – will position Motion as, likely, the No. 2 on our Big 50 List this year.
  • Managing editor Mike Hockett, on page 32, explores the M&A boom that closed out 2021: a ball that rolled without stopping into 2022 with some major announcements and likely more to come.

Do the industry forecasts match this level of momentum and enthusiasm? They’re certainly hinting at a year of opportunities, with analysts like JPMorgan pointing to fading pandemic volatility overall, saying in December: “Our view is that 2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. We believe this will produce a strong cyclical recovery, a return of global mobility and strong growth in consumer and corporate spending, within the backdrop of still-easy monetary policy.”

And when it comes to the industrial sector specifically, Deloitte says the manufacturing industry is “building back fast, undeterred by significant labor and supply chain challenges.”

Though it seems distributors didn’t need to wait for these reports to make their moves which clearly translate to “Full Speed Ahead,” a welcome change from the tepid approach forced by business climate in both 2020 and early ‘21. And while we’re still dealing with some highly visible challenges, 2022 just feels better so far, doesn’t it? And I don’t think it’s just the extra Vitamin D.

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