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How to Maximize Distributor Relationships


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PIDA spotlights the value distributors bring to the supply chain in the pet industry.

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More than a decade ago, the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) coined the phrase “The Power of D, Growth Through Distribution” to illustrate the value distributors bring to the supply chain in the pet industry. Today, distributors remain a vital part of our industry, and PIDA continues to put a spotlight on the value of their relationships with both independent retailers and manufacturers.

The Power of D website, pidapowerofd.org, features videos of the distribution process in action and interviews with the heads of distribution companies discussing their views on the value of independent distributors. This year, we’ve added three videos highlighting the views of the independent retailer. 
Have you taken a look at the Power of D website? For both independent retailers and manufacturers, it is worth your time.

Sections on the website include:

Retailers and the Power of D

PIDA distributor members rely on healthy pet specialty stores as the direct link between products and consumers. There is more to distributors than just buying power. Independents should take advantage of the essential support their distributors provide to help them sell more and improve profitability.

Sure, distributors allow retailers to buy smaller quantities of product at larger-quantity prices and access a wider selection from fewer sources. But did you know that your distributors can help you boost your selling power too? Owners of small pet stores singlehandedly face the same marketing and merchandising responsibilities that are managed by the corporate office staff of big-box stores. To compete, independents need all the assistance they can get. That’s why you should lean on your distributors for support that helps move products off your shelves as well as onto them.

The real power of distribution isn’t only about products. PIDA’s distributor members offer support and connections to help independents compete against big boxes and dotcoms. Just like your small specialty store, service is what ultimately sets your distributor partners apart.

Be sure to listen to other successful retailers in different regions of the U.S. about how to make the most of the distributor-retailer relationship, including providing in-store support, logistics support, and promotional and educational support. 

The Power of Effective Distribution

The true strength of the Power of D is in customer relationships. Without exception, retailer relationships are the biggest asset a distributor brings to the supply chain. 

Distributors have weekly contact with their customers. They build relationships that would be both difficult and very expensive for manufacturers to duplicate. They provide a level of service that is more focused than the manufacturer can provide. Because of their closer relationships, they have a better understanding of retail stores’ needs. Distributors are an asset to manufacturers when it comes to inventory and cash-flow management. 

For retailers, the Power of D includes: inventory management, one-stop shopping, storage costs, market information and merchandising. Beyond the services is the bond between distributors and retailers. Retailers know that their success means success for the distributor. There is a level of trust that comes from years of working together to ensure success.

Setting Up a Distribution Network

The Power of D is never more evident than when you don’t have it. That’s why establishing a distribution network is often the first order of business among manufacturers launching new products, product lines or line extensions in the pet industry. Creating this network effectively boils down to these four steps:

  1. Find the distributors.
  2. Get their attention.
  3. Make sure you measure up.
  4. Have a comprehensive plan.

For retail stores, encouraging manufacturers to use your distribution channel opens up the opportunity for new items to hit your shelves, which fuels the growth for every segment of the industry. 

Getting Your Products to Market

By working with the pet industry’s valuable network of distributors, manufacturers can move their merchandise through the supply chain effectively and efficiently.

The benefit to independent retail stores is that manufacturers can maximize this power by avoiding some common problems. Freight delivery delays, mislabeled products, missing or misapplied bar codes and goods damaged in shipment bog down the distribution channel. Many of these problems are preventable, and, if they are avoided, products won’t be delayed in making it to the retailers’ customers.

The Distributor/Manufacturer Marketing Partnership

When it comes to sales and marketing, the Power of D is relationships. Retail relationships—perhaps thousands of them—are what a distributor brings to the table. Relationships between manufacturers and distributors make the difference between products moving through the channel and collecting dust on warehouse shelves. The Power of D is not a replacement for a manufacturer’s marketing program. It is an enhancement.

The true strength of the Power of D is in customer relationships. The more you can work with your distributors to make your relationship more efficient, the more you will drive cost out of the channel and get your products to market faster. Then, you’ll feel the full force of the Power of D. To learn more about, and to watch all six videos, go to pidapowerofd.org.


Celeste M. Powers, CAE, is the new president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). PIDA’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the wholesaler-distributor, to promote partnerships with their suppliers and customers, and to work cooperatively with other organizations in fostering the human/companion animal bond.

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