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The value of distribution

NAFCD members have the power to pull the industry into a new period of success

By David Williams NAFCD president

As we continue to slowly see signs of recovery in our economy and industry, this is an ideal moment to reflect on the state of our industry, where we may be headed and the powerful opportunities we have to take control of our own future.

Through the recent economic downturn, we have experienced the effects of closings and other shifts in the industry. Several distributors and suppliers have closed their doors over the last few years. While these losses are very unfortunate, I don’t believe they are a reflection of where the floor covering industry is headed in the near future. In the face of the changing economy, the many recent mergers and adjustments among distributors, and our constant struggle to play a valuable role within the channel, there are some valuable lessons to be learned.

First, it is vital for the industry to understand the value that distributors add to the supply chain. Distributors act as the customer service arm of suppliers and are the face of their products to many retailers, specifiers and contractors. Distributors’ proficiency in logistics and right-on-time service make them critical partners on both ends. Their merchandising expertise helps drive sales and profits for dealers. The role wholesalers play in credit and claim resolution is vital, and the education they provide is essential to retailers and installers.

These are just some components of distributors and how their significance is emphasized up and down the supply chain as a critical link between their suppliers and customers. The relationships that distributors build and manage are critical to the profit and stability of all their partners.

This brings me to my next point, which is that the power and importance of membership and involvement in the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) cannot be underestimated. The support members receive from each other throughout the year strengthens each company and the industry as a whole. Relationships formed through NAFCD go beyond simply making deals and viewing products. Members have opportunities to hear success stories and talk to others about sales, operations and financial strategies. When dealing with an issue, it’s highly likely that another member has the same concern. I constantly hear about members calling each other to solve problems.

The benefits of membership in associations have been well documented. According to a study by the Smith Institute, association members tend to earn more, are more satisfied with their jobs and are more likely to be very happy when compared to non-association members in similar industries. The resources NAFCD offers its members position them to be more successful and more satisfied overall.

Members shared that they count on NAFCD reports and research to make strategic financial and business decisions throughout the year. For example, by popular demand, we are reintroducing a benchmarking study to help participants see where they stand within the industry. Our quarterly economic reports and analyses have helped members best position themselves for the next big merger or industry shift.

NAFCD membership is also a mark of credibility to customers and suppliers. It demonstrates support of the industry and an interest in ideas that add value to companies and customers.

NAFCD members benefit the most by meeting face to face. Our annual convention and executive networking forum this November will feature the industry’s leading experts on sales strategy, relationships, economic trends and policy. Attendees also have the chance to meet with important partners to solidify business plans and strengthen relationships throughout the industry. Visit nafcd.org or distributorconvention.org for more details and to register.

In this volatile point in our economic history, when both optimism and pessimism are high, it has never been more important that we work together as an industry to create and communicate our value and importance. If you’re not already a member of NAFCD, I strongly encourage you to check us out. You’ll find that membership in NAFCD provides an anchor, a home base where members can always regroup, energize and look ahead with certainty toward a successful future.