• Thirty-three percent of respondents say
their business now has a mobile app for
its website — up more than two points
from last year’s survey, and up 11 points
• Twenty-eight percent of respondents say
at least 11 percent of their sales come via
online — up nearly four points from last
• Sixty-nine percent of respondents expect
their online sales to increase over the next
12 months — essentially flat from last
The Balance Sheet
Along with the Challenges, Trends & The Economy section of our survey, this year’s Balance
Sheet section truly exemplify the considerable
turnaround in the industrial economy.
Almost 56 percent of respondents say their
sales increased from the previous year — up
more than 13 points from our 2016 survey.
That figure is still down a ways from the 70
percent who saw sales grow in our 2015 survey, but a healthy rebound nonetheless. Fifteen percent of respondents say their sales
decreased — down 11 points from our 2016
Likewise, nearly 58 percent say their profits increased compared to a year earlier — up
12. 5 points from last year’s survey, while the
amount that saw profits decrease — 15 percent — dropped 12 points.
Our respondents are certainly optimistic
about the year ahead, with nearly 78 percent
saying they expect sales to increase (figure 6)
— up almost 15 points from last year’s survey.
That 78 percent figure is actually a hair above
where it was in our 2015 survey before the
worst effects of the industrial recession set in.
Only five percent of respondents expect sales
to decrease over the next 12 months — down
four points from last year’s survey.
When asked which tactics they consider
very important for business growth and development, respondents’ top choices this year
were: add product lines, at 52.5 percent —
up 13 points from last year; marketing, at
52 percent — down three points; sell more
online, at 49 percent — up two points; and
improve/redesign website, at 41 percent — up
eight points. Another major improvement was
in hiring more employees, which jumped nine
points to more than 32 percent.
Our survey shows that their timeframe for
payments and receivables continues to improve. More than 32 percent of respondents
say their timeframe is 30 days or less — up
10 points from a year ago. That percentage
has risen for three straight years. Meanwhile,
the amount of respondents who say their time
frame is between 31 to 50 days dropped almost 12 points from last year to 57 percent.
The relationship between distributors and
suppliers is always an interesting dynamic to
track, especially with our respondents’ growing concern of manufacturers selling direct.
So when it comes to relations, what do our
distributor respondents value most? We asked
them to pick up to three from a list of six options.
•Eighty percent of them say quality is
their No. 1 criteria — down more than
six points from our 2016 survey ago to a
• On-time delivery was second at 66 percent
— up 7. 5 points from last year’s survey.
• Price — which has seemingly become
less of a priority in industry conversations compared to service level — jumped
nearly seven points from last year’s survey
to 60 percent.
• Reputation was fifth at 29 percent, while
terms rounded out the criteria at eight
According to our respondents, supplier relations dipped over the past year. More than 14
percent say their relationship with suppliers has
gotten worse — up more than four points from
last year’s survey; 29 percent say relations have
gotten better — down four points; while most
respondents — 56 percent — say relations have
stayed the same. Likewise, the amount of respondents who say the level of support they’ve
received from suppliers has gotten worse —