For more than 40 years, DirectBuy has offered a wide selection of home furnishings to its members at prices far below retail. However, the company’s value proposition itself wasn’t enough for it to rise above a .02 percent market share in the home improvement industry. “Our founders have long considered the company ‘America’s best-kept secret,’ and we still are,” says CEO Mike Bornhorst, who joined in early 2013. 

Bornhorst visited one of DirectBuy’s showrooms while researching the company before joining it, and says he was “a little angry” by what he encountered. “I had just gone through a home remodel and spent a lot of money, so I was surprised by the prices I’d seen, and upset that I didn’t know about them sooner,” he says.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014, Buckles-Smith is a leading Northern California provider of electrical power, automation and control products. The most experienced distributor in the region, clients in many markets rely on its expertise. 

    “We work with machinery OEMs, industrial and institutional end-users, electrical contractors and utility providers,” President and CEO Art Cook says. “We are an independent regional distributorship, and we’d like to become a super-regional. We have seven facilities and 94 employees in Northern California, and we plan to add locations to fill in gaps geographically.” 

For electrical and industrial wire and cable specialist AZ Wire and Cable, offering customers a large inventory, convenient locations as well as speedy value added services are among the top factors for its success.

As a customer-focused redistributor, AZ Wire and Cable buys direct from the factories, then supplies the electrical distribution and wire and cable specialist markets. By serving as a middleman in this way, it can provide better service than factories. “Factories can’t offer the value and services we can,” Vice President Todd Anixter says. “Our customers call us and get what they want when they need it. We can cut to length with no extra charge.” Receiving this level of service from a factory would require customers to wait between three days to two weeks, while AZ Wire and Cable offers same and next-day service, he explains. 

Every day, the employees of millions of businesses purchase products for their companies from distributors and retailers with varying degrees of oversight. Purchases are made online, through a faxed purchase order, over the telephone or, in a minority of cases, in person. For companies everywhere – especially large ones – the potential savings from smart purchases are substantial, but does the company have the information, safeguards, systems and reporting in place to ensure that smart and economical purchases are being made prior to the employee purchase? According to Cy Kennedy, President of American Product Distributors Inc. (APD), “Our eLink™ Gateway system does.”

It’s a domestic diva’s dream. More than 25,000 square feet of fantasy kitchens. Ten live kitchens – including Kitchen Aid, Miele and GE Monogram – and more than 40 full kitchen set-ups. Enormous displays of Bosch, Thermador, Gaggenau and Viking. A comprehensive lineup of Energy Star appliances. An exclusive JennAir Oiled Bronze kitchen. And the largest display of appliances and cabinetry in Minnesota.

The St. Paul showroom belongs to ALL Inc., the largest residential appliance distributor in the Midwest. People drive more than 200 miles just to see it. “It’s a destination,” CEO Mark Rutzick says. “It’s the Mall of America of cabinets and appliances.”

Look-don’t-touch rules don’t apply here. “A woman once brought in a whole chicken to cook it,” Rutzick says, “and we encourage that.”

For R.W. Smith & Co., remaining competitive in today’s distribution market means offering its clients services and products that they can’t find anywhere else.

“When you’re up against someone like Amazon, you have to find out what your defensible niche is, and at R.W. Smith we’ve done a good job at that,” says Allan Keck, president and CEO of the San Diego-based company. 

Founded in 1935, R.W. Smith & Co. is one of the country’s 20 largest distributors of foodservice and commercial kitchen supplies. The company serves mid-tier to high-end independent and chain restaurants, casinos, schools, corporate dining facilities, institutions and other eating establishments in the nation’s “Sun Belt” states of California, Texas, Arizona and Florida. 

Paramont EO is behind the electrical distribution of some of the most notable places in the Chicago area, including Millennium Park, Brookfield Zoo, Trump Tower, the McCormick Place expansion and the Soldier Field parking lot. “Sometimes you look back and you are surprised it has been 50 years, and that you are still excited about the work, happy to help people and build the marketplace,” CEO and owner Ken Gallagher says. “It’s both rewarding and a little humbling at the same time.”

The Woodridge, Ill.-based company formed in 2013 after the union of two electrical distribution companies: Paramont ES and Evergreen Oak Electric Supply, both located in the Chicago suburbs. Paramont ES was founded in 1982 and focused on high-end commercial businesses while Evergreen Oak was founded in 1964 and focused on electrical distribution. 

Whether it’s a tablecloth, a hospital gown or a fire-resistant uniform, textiles are generally more effective when they cover more area. It’s the same with Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Mission Linen Supply, which for more than 80 years has been a leader in providing linens, uniforms and related services to a broad customer base. President and CEO John Ross says the company’s ability to serve all industries effectively  has made it one of the most successful companies of its kind on the West Coast. 

“We serve the widest array of customers in the  textile services industry,” Ross says. “It ranges from hospitals and smaller medical clinics to high-end restaurants to manufacturing facilities that have industrial garment requirements to oil refineries and natural gas service companies who work out in remote places developing natural resources with specialty fire-resistant garments.”

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