Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, IT spending worldwide is down at present, and IDC expects it to finish down 5.1% for the year. Yet IT sales to small and midsize businesses in the U.S. remain solid for Ingram Micro and its partners, according to Kirk Robinson, the distributor’s senior vice president and chief country executive for the U.S.
“With all the businesses that are closed down, we thought we may see some issues there, but SMB continues to be strong for us,” says Robinson, who spoke this morning at Ingram’s 2020 SMB Alliance Unplugged conference.
That’s despite a larger trend line for U.S. revenue headed, for the moment at least, in the wrong direction after encouraging momentum during the first four months of the year. Though sales globally declined 5% for Ingram in its first fiscal quarter, which concluded March 28th, they were “quite strong” in the U.S., according to Robinson.
“We then moved into April and saw even stronger sales, with double-digit sales growth and SMB helping to lead the way,” he adds. In May, by contrast, the company hit “a little speed bump in the road” marked by a “mid-single-digit” dip in revenue year over year. “But not bad, and SMB continues to perform,” Robinson says.
Darren Gottesmann, Ingram’s director of SMB sales for the U.S., likes what’s he’s seeing currently too. “We’re still growing at a very strong rate,” he said during an interview on the ChannelPro Weekly podcast set to air this week.
Credit for those results go to the business world’s long-term reliance on technology and more recent need for remote work solutions, Gottesmann continues. “We are very thankful that we’re in this industry that’s providing one of the necessities of the world, which is technology [to] work from home to keep the economy going,” Gottesmann says. “Working from home setups open up a huge opportunity.”
Unplugged is the largest annual gathering of Ingram’s SMB Alliance community, a collection of the distributor’s most engaged SMB partners. Normally held in Buffalo, N.Y., the conference was staged online this year instead due to the coronavirus.
“We were bummed out about doing this virtual,” Gottesmann said in a kickoff presentation yesterday. “It’s hard to replicate the in-person energy.”
The conference did, however, include the business-building and best practices content attendees normally receive. Among the speakers this year were strategic communications consultant Dave Yewman, who provided advice on public speaking; Frank Albi and Scott Goemmel of A&G Advisory Services, who discussed financial strategies for achieving sustainable growth; and generational expert Meagan Johnson, who discussed the challenges of managing teams that mix Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials.
At present, SMB Alliance has 270 members, each of whom receives dedicated inside sales reps, dedicated field reps, free presales tech support, discounts on shipping and training, special offers from leading vendors, access to market development funds, and other benefits. Ingram has also made the 45-day credit terms it extended to Alliance partners three months ago in conjunction with a package of coronavirus-inspired finance programs permanent.
“We understand that it’s a tough time right now,” said Kellie Fox, a senior business development executive for SMB Alliance in an Unplugged presentation this morning.
Gottesmann, however, is bullish about the future. “This year started off fantastic for everybody, absolutely fantastic,” he says. “Once we could get out of the situation we’re in now with COVID, we’re looking for an IT explosion.”