Speak Out! Rep Distribution, Part II
Deborah Smith's cover story in Custom Retailer's December issue, "Rep Distribution: A Puzzling Landscape," struck a chord with many disparate factions of the vendor-distributor-retailer axis. For some, it was pure music, to others, decidedly off-key. Custom Retailer received so many comments and so much feedback on the story that we decided to open up our pages for other points of view — pro and con.
Executive Vice President
The old adage "you are who you sell" has never been more true than it is today. In the case of B&W, the quality (not the quantity) of our dealer network has been at least as im-portant to our success as the quality of our products, if not more. We decided a long time ago that our brand image would be defined by our strength in the high end, real and perceived. High-end specialty dealers are the only ones capable enough and committed enough to successfully sell the higher priced products, long term. We chose them and we stayed with them. Today, B&W commands a dominant global market share at $1,000 per speaker and up.
We see many quality brands trying to have their cake and eat it too. They have "supplemented" (I would argue, supplanted) their regular dealer networks by empowering their reps to "distribute" their lines to a vast array of small, mostly custom dealers. Yes, the market is changing, but in my view, does not justify the "frontier mentality" of making brands accessible at wholesale to anyone with a pulse and a checkbook. While it's probably true that rep distribution is here to stay, at the very least, the key dealers should be pressuring manufacturers to increase the "spread" between direct and distribution pricing.
The message to traditional specialty independents should be loud and clear. Support the brands that are truly committed to supporting them, and support as few of them as possible in order to remain important to those vendors, long term. That's what B&W dealers have done through the years, and they're glad they did. So are we!