What does the ’one-stop shop’ mean for the channel?

Where does the rise of manufacturers looking to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ for AV requirements leave distributors, as well as the rest of the channel?

Simon Druce, sales director of UK distributor CUK Audio, talks to Tim Kridel about the pros and cons of manufacturers selling, and integrators buying, as much of an AV system as possible from a single manufacturer. 

TK: From what you’re seeing, are AV vendors increasingly offering full product lines of hardware, software and services? 

SD: There has definitely been a rise in manufacturers looking to embrace the ecosystem approach and whilst there have been some strong advances in this area, I would say not all have offered the integrators the best opportunity to give the end client (the most important person surely in the whole process) the best solution. I feel some ecosystems have compromised the end client’s ability to have the right product for the job.
TK: How does that trend affect integrators, consultants and distributors, both positively and negatively? For example, does it make multi-vendor interoperability less of a selling point and more of a challenge? Will integrators lose out if integration skills aren’t in such high demand? Or will there always be a lot of demand for multi-vendor systems? 

SD: There are some obvious advantages to the integrator for a “single stop” solution: One brand; one area of failure; assured compatibility of technologies. 

However, this does have huge impacts on the role of the integrator and, I would question further, could it be argued it “devalues” the role of the integrator and their ability to maintain the margins needed when something is sold “out of the box”. Here at CUK we have seen a rise in installers coming to us requesting assistance in system designs due to the fact they don’t want an ecosystem. They like our ability to offer from a wide catalogue of products to solve their problems. They ask for our advice on how our products can be interoperable with some of their chosen tools. 

This is especially prevalent with us having the largest Dante-based product portfolio within the UK distribution sector. We have found our technical engineers looking at larger scale Dante deployments and incorporating various products from across the spectrum and advising on how they integrate. This co-operative approach has seen our customer base grow and integrators see that there are solutions out there that can work as well, if not better as ecosystems and in many cases at a more cost-effective level.
TK: Do integrators, consultants and distributors compromise by not installing, recommending or stocking certain products because the cost/ease/interoperability arguments of sticking within an ecosystem outweigh the benefits? 

SD: I would say yes, certain distribution models would lend themselves to this approach. Where a distributor has a mix of exclusive and sub distributed brands, there will always be a tendency to push a customer towards something that makes you more money. 

Within the CUK group, all our brands are direct manufacture relationships, so our goal is always to ensure our partners are sold the correct product from within the catalogue we have. By doing that, you will strengthen the relationship and gain the repeat business.
TK: Are distributors forced into ditching brands that compete as one of their brands expands its range? 

SD: Manufacturers rightly want the strongest representation they can get within a chosen territory. If a distributor is working closely with that manufacturer, then the aspect of a portfolio clash can be managed and represented in the market the correct way. 

There are lots of opportunities within today’s industry, even during these challenging times. Distributors who manage their portfolio and work with their manufacturers to adapt and develop products will always see success over those that don’t. That close management doesn’t require portfolio changes. When CUK purchased Tukans, it was a strategic acquisition to strengthen our offering to the integration market and give our partners the ability to select products from a breadth of globally renowned manufacturers whilst still giving them the opportunity to create their own “eco world”.
TK: Is there anything pro AV can learn from the IT world regarding ecosystem plays and interoperability? For example, some people say that IT’s reliance on standards such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi makes it easier to mix and match vendors, thus reducing the pressure to stick with one. 

SD: I do think having common standards would make the pro AV industry much easier to work in from an integrator’s point of view. We have seen how well Dante has brought the industry together, and this standard has pretty much helped the AV industry bring themselves into the digital age. I think any manufacturer that still insists on having their own proprietary infrastructure to create a system will be fighting a losing battle going forward. End users are demanding complete flexibility and don’t want their ability to widely choose products inhibited.

Our mentality when looking at a new brand has always been how does it benefit our customer base when put alongside the rest of portfolio. Within the CUK Group, we have strived to be choose products that enhance each other and therefore give our integrators the ability to choose the best product for the job at the best price. We have then the ability to put together a full, technically compliant solution for our partners but using the best products from a large portfolio of products. 

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