• Tech Usage & Investments: This covers areas like e-commerce and other big-impact
technology solutions for now and the future.
• Value of the Distributor: This addresses
the reasons our survey respondents believe customers do business with them
and which service offerings play a significant role in the industry.
• Employment: This identifies hiring and lay-
off trends, recruitment and compensation.
You’ll notice that this year’s survey section
is considerably shorter than in past years —
less than half the length of last year’s. That’s
because, starting this year, we’ve decided to
include only the most pertinent survey stats in
our print issue and then make the full report
available to download online. That full report
will be made available starting May 18, so say
tuned to www.inddist.com to see many more
stats, charts and commentary beyond what is
The results of this study are based on an email
survey sent to Industrial Distribution subscribers in March 2017. Recipients of the survey
were offered an incentive to complete the
questionnaire. Industrial Distribution’s subscriber base is comprised of 30,000 readers,
the majority of whom identify as executive, upper management, sales or sales management.
Results are based on a pool of respondents
within this subscriber base.
Comments on this year’s results? Email
Industrial Distribution editor Mike Hockett at
Out of all our survey sections, the one with
the least amount of change tends to be demographics, and that was the case again this year
with essentially the same size number of respondents as in 2016. The nature of our readership reflects this granularity, as the majority
is comprised of small-to-midsized distributors.
Nearly 55 percent of our respondents had
2016 sales of $50 million or less and 33 percent had sales less than $10 million. On the
other end of the spectrum, 27 percent had
sales of more than $500 million, but part of
that likely represents fewer different companies since some of those respondents likely
work for the same business.
The largest geographic segment of respondents is the Midwest at 29 percent — down
seven percentage points from a year ago. The
Northeast is second at 23 percent (+ 3 points),
followed by the Southeast at 16 percent (+ 6),
the South at 12 percent (+ 5), the West at 9
percent (-1) and Southwest at 5 percent (- 4).
Just over 5 percent of our respondents are
from outside the U.S.
Some other demographic stats:
• Nearly 45 percent of respondents have
been in business 50 years or more, while
54 percent represent a family-owned
business — down almost 11 points from
last year’s survey.
• Almost 66 percent of respondents say
their number of product lines expanded
in the past year, up 10 points from last
• The most popular product categories our
respondents’ businesses sell into are:
MRO supplies at 49 percent; hand tools
at 49 percent; lubricants at 45 percent;
safety at 44 percent; adhesives and sealants at 42 percent; material handling at
41 percent; cutting tools at 41 percent,
power tools at 38 percent; and motors,
controls and drives at 38 percent.
• As for markets our respondents sell into,
the biggest movers were: energy, down
six points to 45 percent; aerospace, down
five points to 32 percent; and government, up four points to 54 percent.
& The Economy
These past two years have been rough on the
industrial supply market, to say the least. Almost all of the publicly traded distributors on
ID’s Big 50 List suffered year-over-year sales
and profit declines, with some seeing declines
in for at least four or five consecutive fiscal
quarters. This was especially evident for distributors that rely heavily on oil and gas customers, where product demand has been reduced the most since early 2015. Not just for
the big guys, either. Many small and midsize
distributor executives ID has spoken with over
the past year have relayed their struggles that
have been tied to customers putting a halt on
Thankfully, the U.S. industrial economy has
seen a considerable rebound since the start of
Annual company sales (in 2016)
30.4 LESS THAT $10 MILLION
20.3 $500 MILLION PLUS
16.6% $10 TO $20 MILLION
10.5 $20 TO $50 MILLION
4.7 $250 TO $500 MILLION
8.8 $100 TO $250 MILLION
$50 TO $100 MILLION