Distributors are the chameleons of the channel, having successfully morphed forms to cope with every big industry shift since the 1980s.
Even though many predicted their demise with the onset of cloud, ‘two-tier' is still the preferred channel model for the majority of vendors, and will remain so in the future.
But the strain this middle rung of our industry is under has never been more apparent. So far, consolidation has been driven mainly by the ‘big four'. But one member of this quartet, Tech Data, is now devouring the VAD arm of another, Avnet, while its largest member, Ingram, is moving under Chinese owernership.
Meanwhile, everyone from Westcon to Ingram is shifting functions to eastern Europe.
In a market where organic growth is almost impossible for broadliners to achieve and margins are being squeezed, we can only expect more M&A, more cost cutting and more nearshoring.
Of the top 20 UK distributors in a 2010 CRN analysis of the market, six (Avnet, SDG, Computerlinks, Computers Unlimited, Hammer and Magirus) have been acquired, while one, Steljes, has gone bust.
In that time, only a couple of newer outfits of a similar scale - most notably Exclusive Networks - have emerged. Over the last six years, power has undoubtedly concentrated into the hands of fewer players.
Inevitably, recent events will lead to questions over whether resellers and vendors will be left with a lack of choice, competition and available credit lines, and those doing the acquiring must tread carefully. Vendors and resellers will not want to be left with some sort of distributor oligarchy where only a handful of players dominate.
Indeed, in a recent CRN poll, 53 per cent of respondents felt that the consolidation we are seeing in the distribution skyline is not a positive for resellers.
In this week's packed issue, we talk to one of the distribution market's biggest consolidators, Exertis, on p13 to find out how it is approaching the Hammer acquisition, and it has promised to run the storage VAD as a separate business indefinitely in order to address such concerns.
This week's Spotlight zooms in on the challenges of moving to an MSP model. Also, don't miss our interview with Softcat CEO Martin Hellawell following its first full-year results as a public company (p15).
As ever, please get in touch via ChannelWeb or Twitter @CRN_UK.
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