Jensen Distribution Services

For many retailers throughout the western United States, Jensen Distribution Services is their lifeline, supplying them with more than 65,000 items with pinpoint accuracy and on-time delivery. The wholesale distributor has been a fixture in the West for more than 130 years, and has seen five generations of the Jensen family lead it to greater success with each passing year. As a member of the fifth generation of family leadership of the company, President and COO Micah Dunlap says the scope of Jensen Distribution Services’ operations has changed a lot, but the company’s main goal has remained the same. 

“We’re all out there just trying to get our customers the best pricing and the best deals that we can,” she says. 

The company’s roots date back to 1883, when Danish immigrant O.C. Jensen opened a hardware business in the territory that is now Washington. Over the years, the company grew steadily through organic expansion as well as some significant acquisitions. In 1958, for example, the company purchased the Spokane, Wash., branch of Marshall Wells, and in 1981 it purchased Seattle wholesaler Pacific Marine Schwabacher, which at the time was the largest wholesaler in the Northwest. 

Today, Jensen Distribution Services supplies a variety of retailers with wholesale items ranging from hardware to outdoor living products to building materials. Dunlap says the company’s customers typically fall into one of three categories, the first being independent retailers that include traditional hardware stores. The second major category is made up of regional retail chains , and the third group is made up of online retailers for which the company performs some third-party logistics services. “We have kind of a unique customer base, I’d say,” Dunlap says. 

Although the competition in the West is intense, Dunlap says the strengths that have enabled Jensen Distribution Services to thrive for more than 130 years continue to make up the backbone of the company’s operations today. As the company continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of its customers, Jensen Distribution Services is putting itself in position to serve retailers for a long time to come.

Complete Service

At its massive warehouse and distribution center in Spokane, Jensen Distribution Services has the space to hold tens of thousands of items, and Dunlap says that is one of the key reasons for the company’s success. “I definitely think it’s our flexibility in terms of the products that we carry and are willing to carry at our customers’ requests,” she says. 

Because of the depth of its warehouse and distribution center, Jensen Distribution Services encourages customers to think of the company as an extension of their own back rooms. The company’s facilities total more than 576,000 square feet of facilities on more than 30 acres, and it has an additional 20 acres of property yet to be developed. 

Along with the company’s physical space, Dunlap says Jensen Distribution Services also has a lot to offer customers when it comes to the human element. She says it has a strong core of experienced salespeople and specialists with an average of eight years of tenure with the company. Th­e expertise of Jensen Distribution Services’ staff is so deep that many customers turn to the company for help in running demographic studies of their customers to find out which products they should carry. “We’re willing to do whatever they need,” Dunlap says. “We’re very service-oriented.”

Jensen Distribution Services also offers its customers a deeper understanding of how they run their businesses. Dunlap says this is because, as a family owned and operated company, Jensen Distribution Services resembles many of its customers.

Making Headway

Dunlap says the greatest challenge for Jensen Distribution Services today is the increased competition in the marketplace. The lasting effects of the recession have left the industry with less business to compete for at a time when margins already are thin. However, there are signs that the economy is beginning to turn around.

The company also is taking advantage of new technology to attract more customers. For example, the company recently launched a mobile app that allows customers to have access to its inventory through a tablet or smartphone. “It’s basically our catalog and it makes it just another way they can order,” Dunlap says. 

Thanks in part to this new technology, Dunlap says, Jensen Distribution Services is confident that it can continue to grow its customer base for the foreseeable future.

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