HVACR distribution is thriving.

Yes, challenges exist in the form of Amazon and the deluge of digital transactions, but the two-step model marches on.

While e-commerce aficionados and direct-sale manufacturers may trumpet that distribution’s days are numbered, I insist this channel is stronger than ever before. Need proof? Flip to the list of Top 50 distributors — and the $17.7 billion in sales they accrued in 2017 — featured on Page 10.

Seeing is Believing

I stand behind two-step distribution, because I’ve seen the vitality of the sector firsthand.

Since becoming editor-in-chief of Distribution Center in December 2017, I’ve been privileged to travel across the U.S. and spend time with some of HARDI’s most successful wholesalers.

In February, I spent a day with the Gustave A. Larson team in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, which, since 1936, has buttered its bread by focusing on operating from the customers’ perspective. For 82 years, the company’s success has hinged on implementing the necessary analytics, metrics, and systems to grow profitably and sustainably. The team continues this entrepreneurial approach to this day, most recently demonstrated through the implementation of a new ERP system and digital storefront across 52 of its branch locations.

Later in February, it was wagon wheels west to San Diego for HARDI’s Strategic Leadership and Finance focus conference, where I was wowed by presenter Tim Pollard and got to shake hands with many well-respected distributors, including Ruth Ann Davis-McElwee, Larry Trimbach, Jen Schmitt, and others.

The next morning, I drove up to Fontana, California, to visit with AC Pro’s Blake Quinn. AC Pro has one of the sleekest online storefronts in all of distribution. And, most astonishingly, the majority of the programming was done in-house — an ambitious endeavor that took more than three years to complete. 

In March, I attended the 2018 Winsupply Strategic Planning Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, which felt like the largest family reunion I’ve ever attended.

Later that week, I met with the leadership team at Ed’s Supply. While the rest of the industry struggles to find qualified talent, Ed’s Supply does not, thanks to the creation of its own training program, complete with a Management Leadership Academy with personal and professional benchmarks. To date, 36 individuals have completed the program.  

These are just a few of the amazing companies operating within HVACR distribution. The passion displayed by each of these wholesalers defies description. HVACR distribution is thriving, and it’s evident at every counter throughout the U.S.