Back to the Future… the Resurgence of the Independent Dealer
When I first started in the business in the late 1980s, there were dozens of independent dealers in our market representing all of the major manufacturers. As the industry transitioned from analog copiers to digital multi-functional devices during the 1990s, many of those independent dealers sold their business because of the fear of the unknown. Connecting to networks was a scary proposition for copier dealers in those days because we knew very little about printing and scanning technology.
Hundreds of dealers across the country were bought out by acquisition companies like Ikon, Danka, and Global Imaging. Soon after, manufacturers also began acquiring dealers to protect their customer bases. Eventually, Ricoh bought Ikon, Konica Minolta acquired what was left of Danka, and Xerox bought Global Imaging to further strengthen the customer bases of those manufacturers.
The major trend in the industry over the past ten year is to offer managed services allowing vendors like NBM to supply even more products and support to our customers. We have partnered with HP, Synnex, and Oki to bolster our Managed Print Services offering. We work with Dell, Intronis, Datto, and Reflexion, among others to supply products and services for our Managed IT customers. We partnered with FP Mailing Solutions to be able to supply postage meters and folding/inserting equipment. We work with KIP and HP for wide-format devices. It is increasingly difficult for manufacturers to compete with the local independent dealer in the small to midsize business segment in today’s climate.
In fact, at least two manufacturers have begun to exit the SMB market. Ricoh has laid off 1,600 employees and is selling its direct customer base in the SMB space to local independent dealers. Pitney Bowes is attempting to do the same thing in the postage industry. In short, there has never been a better time to be an independent dealer!