15 Minutes With: Craig Birmingham, Ingram Micro
Dealerscope caught up with the Business & Consumer Solutions’ VP & GM at the distributor’s BCS Connections event in early April. Here’s his take on business, hot categories and trends shaping resellers’ future
Dealerscope: In your remarks to resellers, you said 2018 vendor and reseller sales reached $8.4 billion, with resellers’ business up 15 percent year over year. Can you elaborate on those successes?
Craig Birmingham: There’s been double-digit growth for three years in a row, and a lot of is due to some of the new areas retailers are getting into: B-to-B and B-to-C, obviously, which is their core. More and more resellers are figuring out that the people walking into their stores are also purchasers for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). And our vendor partners are making products more affordable to meet those needs - for example, physical security and also small networking systems. We talked a lot here about how, with 5G coming, there’s a huge opportunity for resellers to help people upgrade not only their home networks but also their small-to-medium business networks.
As far as infrastructure upgrades, the hardware today doesn’t support the speed of 5G, and won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits it will bring, not only to cities and small towns, but eventually, to homes.
Looking at some of the success we’ve had over the last year and a half, a lot of it has been around security in the home, with mesh networking; there’s always the big fear of people hacking into your network through smart devices. So not only will network speeds need to be faster, but security will also be a big play both in the home and in the small office.
Are there greater numbers of resellers here at the conference versus 2018?
We’re up in resellers, for sure. And we’re really happy about the fact that we’re up in net new resellers – those who were not here in the past. We’ve made great strides by adding regional coverage resources, and that has helped people understand the value of Ingram Micro outside of just distribution, and that they can take advantage of our core competencies. [That means] taking advantage of our data, our business intelligence, our services offerings, and obviously, our broad portfolio – a vast portfolio of products dedicated to smart home/smart office/smart everything, and connected devices. In addition, there is the growth we’ve seen in SMB around business-grade products that are now proliferating in the consumer space.
Are there categories featured here that were not last year – and what’s really hot in categories?
We added more cyber security vendors, component vendors as well such as Intel, and imaging solutions, meaning 3D printing, and large-format printing, where we made an investment about a year and a half ago – and we’re bringing new partners in and are focusing on that niche. And we’re actually printing 3D prosthetics here!
In the traditional consumer technology space [Cuisinart has] had double-digit growth for three years in a row now. And Samsung is a huge supplier for us. A lot of our Apple specialists are here. And we’re really helping enable their growth in that space.
Based on feedback from your resellers, are there any initiatives that you have implemented or are considering implementing in response?
We changed the name of the event to BCS Connections; for the last 12 years we’ve done them, it’s been called an expo.
The best feedback we’ve gotten from resellers and vendors is the time they got to spend getting to know customers and customers’ needs – they’re all different. So we have an area called “The Village,” where vendors and resellers can actually talk strategy in a separate area of the conference. It’s the third year in a row we’ve done it, and that’s been very beneficial; this year, we expanded that and expanded the time.
What sorts of help are you offering resellers to help them to grow their digital media skills?
For the first time this year, we brought in our in-house marketing firm – Ingram Micro Aim – and we’ve had a lot of success in helping smaller resellers re-brand their messaging from a digital transformation standpoint, and from a branding perspective, to their consumers. The other piece is around financial solutions – that’s another area where we’ve really helped. We’ve been more aggressive not just in credit lines, but in helping finance deals for our reseller partners in the marketplace.
Samsung, which conducted a breakout session here, has been very promotionally minded about its 8K TV lineup. How are you helping your resellers to frame 8K at retail, as there’s no content support system as yet?
It’s early, but I’ll tell you – with the Samsung products and their upscaling capabilities, we have not been able to keep 8K in stock. There’s been a strong gravitation to the 8K platform, and in addition to that, Samsung’s investment in connected home has also been a big selling point… Dealers are bringing 8K in and selling them. The premium models within Samsung have been a huge upside for Ingram Micro and our dealers – both 8K and premium.
Are there any other observations you’d like to make about business?
I take a lot of pride in Ingram Micro’s associates – and their drive and passion. It’s truly about the people and the relationships. Our keynoter, Meagan [Johnson], talked about companies being able to manage with the three different generations in the workforce. I’ve been at Ingram Micro for 25-plus years, and I honestly think we have the most approachable executive team in terms of thinking about innovation, and in being willing to listen to ideas from our associates, from the entry level all the way up.