Distributors set to remain key part of pro AV channel

Tim Kridel finds out from Sam Taylor, executive vice president and COO for Almo Professional A/V, whether distributors are at risk from manufacturer’s looking to bypass them and sell direct.

TK: Will vendors do more direct sales? 

ST: I don’t think so. In fact, we see the trend going the opposite direction. Many vendors simply don’t have the bandwidth to service resellers. By working through a distributor, resellers can streamline their product purchases for an entire project while expanding what they can offer customers. We provide our resellers with technical support, managed services that create recurring revenue in areas such as content creation or internet/live TV/advanced voice, as well as a multitude of training opportunities so our resellers can continue growing.

TK: Are exclusive distribution deals becoming less common?

ST: No. Exclusive distribution deals are actually becoming more pervasive. Many manufacturers realise that if their product availability becomes too wide, it tends to devalue the brand. When the manufacturer narrows the availability or makes it exclusive, distributors can dedicate more resources to that brand and provide more margin, greater technical support and faster service. 

TK: What are some successful resellers? Why are they successful? What can their peers learn from their strategies?

ST: The most successful resellers are those who provide the best customer experience. This does not mean the lowest pricing! The resellers who invest in education/training to learn the trends and focus on the best outcome for their customers are the ones that are going to survive and thrive. They also realise they can’t do it alone and incorporate third party services. This allows the reseller to instantly expand its offering to the customer without the hassle of having to manage it in-house. And because many services provide revenue-generating opportunities, it’s a worthwhile investment for everyone involved. 

TK: AV vendors are increasingly designing many of their products to be plug and play. Doesn’t this trend mean vendors will require even fewer resellers?

ST: Not at all. As the AV market evolves and matures, naturally there will be more automation. Making an intricate product easier to use is certainly beneficial to the end user. But the reseller’s role is also evolving. Instead of having to focus on the technical details, the reseller is now freed up to provide the customer more – such as additional products for a systems integration project like digital signage or services like content creation help complete the project. 

TK: Will these trends mean more integrator and distributor mergers, acquisitions and closures?   

ST: Right now the AV market is in a healthy place. Mergers and acquisitions have been very prevalent in the market as of late and this is a good sign. Distributors and resellers are bringing together the best of the best to provide more to customers. For example, in May, Almo Pro A/V acquired IAVI. We combined our strengths with theirs and now have greater reach, greater offerings and more capabilities than any other distributor in the US market. Our acquisition has benefited all parties – our vendors, our resellers and the end user customers. Expect to see more positive changes like this in our industry. 

Excerpts from Tim Kridel’s Q&A with Sam Taylor will be published in a wider article on the topic in the September edition of InAVate EMEA when not everyone is a positive about the continuing role of the AV distributor. 

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More Q&As from the series:
Harald Steindl, HST Consulting
Jon Sidwick, Maverick Europe

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