Survey Shows Distributors Concerned about Political Indecision, Uncertainty over New Regulations

Uncertainty about government regulation and its impact on business growth has become a top concern of executives in the wholesale distribution industry, according to results from the 2013 McGladrey/NAW Institute Distribution Monitor. The survey was sponsored by McGladrey LLP and the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, the research arm of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW).

According to the survey results, distribution executives have positive outlooks for the near future, with 87 percent optimistic about their own business’ growth prospects in the coming year and 75 percent reporting optimism for the wholesale distribution industry in general. Sixty-three percent of executives expect to add jobs in the next 12 months, with an average expected increase of 4.4 percent.

Despite these positive outlooks, survey respondents expect growth to be limited by a variety of issues. While remaining concerned about traditional business factors such as materials pricing and the direction of the economy, the top four (out of 17) most commonly cited threats to growth were related to government policy. Government regulation (72 percent) and health reform implementation (72 percent) were tied for the most commonly cited threats to growth, with the increase in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare (71 percent) and the federal deficit (69 percent) close behind.

“Wholesale distribution companies are growing, and the vast majority expect to continue growing in the coming year.” said Patrick Larmon, Bunzl Distribution USA, Inc. and 2013 NAW Chairman of the Board. “However, these results demonstrate that distributors still face headwinds on the path to growth, and many of them can be traced back to Washington. Uncertainty about government regulation and the impact of policies such as health reform have become a major challenge for these executives.”

While hiring is expected to increase, most distribution executives expect a variety of employee costs to increase substantially in the next 12 months. In particular, while wages and other benefits are expected to increase at an average rate of around four percent; executives expect health care costs to rise by an average of 11 percent.

Distributors are also anticipating significant increases in materials and components costs, and in several areas, concern about these costs is on the rise. Ninety-two percent of executives expect increases in transportation/fuel costs, compared to 77 percent in 2012; 84 percent of executives expect increases in energy/utilities costs in 2013 (an average of 4.5 percent), compared to 70 percent in 2012; and 83 percent of executives expect increases in costs of inventory/materials/components in 2013, compared to 73 percent in 2012.

Distribution executives are increasingly aware of the risks associated with business information and data, though they continue to report relatively low levels of risk. Approximately 70 percent of distribution executives report that their information/data is at little or no risk, a drop from 79 percent in 2012. At the same time, distributors are taking steps to manage IT-related risks, with 62 percent of distributors reporting that they have an IT risk management process, and 72 percent indicating that they regularly monitor systems to find threats and attacks that might have occurred.

“Since the Monitor began accumulating data in 2005, the management of thriving companies has been a topic of interest,” said Bob Jirsa, partner – assurance services and industrial products, distribution for McGladrey. “Over the years, the survey results have made it clear that successful distributors are investing in their futures and are more likely than others to put a percentage of their revenue in a number of areas, including continuous improvement, training and productivity, information technology, measurement procurement, acquisitions and international expansion and exporting.”

“The report shows that the plastics industry is growing and creating good jobs,” said ACC Vice President of Plastics, Steve Russell. “It’s no surprise because plastics deliver great value. And, plastic makers will continue to make significant investments for further growth.”

For more on best practices of thriving distributors and/or more details about responses from distributors, see the 2013 McGladrey/NAW Institute Distribution Monitor.


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