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Why building distributor relationships allows the opportunity to become ‘true partners’

April 11, 2022 -  By
Experts say staying in contact with a distributor can give you a leg up. (Photo: Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply)

Experts say staying in contact with a distributor can give you a leg up. (Photo: Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply)

The landscape industry is one of many plagued by supply chain issues. But as these three distributors explain, contractors and lawn care operators (LCOs) have a partner that can help minimize the effects on their businesses.

Find support

Distributors are advocates for LCOs and help mitigate the ebbs and flows of the supply chain, says Mark Jull, director of proprietary products, Target Specialty Products.

“If professionals were depending on small retailers or specific vendors for their supplies, they may have found that their favorite products were no longer available,” Jull says. “By working with a distributor, professionals have access to many different supply options.”

Target Specialty Products also provides technical support, readily available inventory, education, product recommendations and help to diagnose soil or plant health.

“Distributors act as true partners to the landscape professional,” Jull says. “We strive to take the guesswork out of product selection, so as a landscape professional, you can focus on your customers and your staff.”

Know the options

Keeping ongoing communications between contractors and distributors is instrumental — says Jack York, director of product line management, Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply — especially when looking to alleviate supply chain challenges.

“Contractors can expect to experience ongoing production delays, port congestion, fuel and freight costs, natural disasters, foreign supply side issues and a shortage of materials, equipment and workers,” York says. “Additionally, demand for work and projects should continue to rise, making these supply chain challenges even harder to overcome, but it’s not insurmountable.”

Distributors know what is in stock and incoming — and can suggest alternatives if the product isn’t available. Contractors also can ask distributors for extended payment terms to help manage cash flow.

“Many distributors offer several credit options, as well as loyalty rewards programs that can help you stretch your purchasing power,” York says.

He encourages contractors to build their inventory strategically and not delay orders if they have the space and financing. Some distributors offer early order programs (EOPs) and the option to store products for customers.

“As soon as you book a project, even if the start date is weeks away, place your order immediately with your distributor,” he says. “Product availability isn’t just a matter of what manufacturers have available, but also the freight and shipping availability and timing. So many factors can play into your product order, so plan ahead.”

Plan out projects

One main cause for the industry’s supply chain issues is the labor shortage, says Phil Stephens, general manager at Horizon Distributors.

“If manufacturers don’t have the team to match the demand, those issues amplify supply chain disruptions — affecting shipping and the entire equation,” Stephens says. “We work with our manufacturers on a week-to-week basis to discuss our demand and where to put the products. We work to get our customers what they need when they need it.”

To combat these issues, contractors should lean on their relationships with distributors, which have the tools and knowledge to help manage different aspects of the business — from products and finances to project workflows.

“Maybe they can do one phase of a project and then do other when the product they need comes in. We can help them figure it out,” Stephens says. “Access to information is key. We can show you what you need, how it works and its applications.”

He says his team’s proactive communication ensures contractors know which products have supply chain issues, the lead times for affected products and alternative products available. Distributors also can share trends across the marketplace — from landowners or property managers — to keep contractors up to date.

“Most contractors who shop at distributors are there for the long-haul. They leverage us for the long-term relationships,” Stephens says. “Distribution doesn’t come and go, and good contractors don’t either.”

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