IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Ingram Micro Traces Ups and Downs of a “Crazy Year” at Virtual Partner Event

Speaking to partners during its ONE conference, and with ChannelPro as well, the distributor said that while sales have suffered in some markets this year, 2020 hasn’t been as bad as many feared six months ago. By Rich Freeman

2020 has been a trying year for everyone. From a dollars and cents standpoint, however, it could have been a whole lot worse for Ingram Micro and many of its partners, according to Kirk Robinson, the distributor’s senior vice president and chief country executive for the U.S.

“Even though it’s been a crazy year, we’ve been able to achieve plan in all three quarters,” said Robinson this morning during a presentation at Ingram’s ONE conference, which is taking place online today and tomorrow.

Indeed, profits rose 2.1% in the company’s third quarter, which concluded September 26th, despite a modest dip in revenue. “We’re quite pleased with how we’re doing,” said Robinson in an interview with ChannelPro yesterday.

That goes for Ingram’s U.S. SMB business as well. Darren Gottesmann, the distributor’s executive director of SMB sales, called his group’s performance “very strong” in June and remains encouraged by trends since then. “We’re seeing mid-single-digit growth in the ‘S’ of SMB,” he says.

Needless to say, that growth hasn’t been across the board. Revenue in industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, like retail and hospitality, has suffered, and Robinson expects Ingram’s data center business to be down through the first or second quarter of 2021. Yet sales in other market segments have made up for that slack. 

“We’ve seen strong growth in public sector,” Robinson says. “Our federal business has been on fire.”

Sales of laptops, webcams, and other work-from-home gear, which helped drive double-digit growth for Ingram in April when widespread stay-at-home orders went into effect, remain solid as well, he adds, along with consumption of cloud-based applications and infrastructure. 

Security products have been in demand too, according to Eric Kohl, vice president of U.S. Advanced Solutions at Ingram, who singles out email security systems, vulnerability management solutions, and security awareness training services, as well as SASE, SD-WAN, and cloud security offerings from next-gen firewall manufacturers, in particular.

For Ingram’s partners, 2020 has been a “mixed bag,” according to Robinson, who calls location the number one variable in determining who’s up and who’s down.

“There are some states that are much more open than others,” he notes. “Some partners have their service people out traveling and doing service calls, while others are still in a little bit more of a lockdown.”

On the plus side, he continues, fewer partners than Ingram once feared have experienced real financial distress. “We haven’t seen some of the things we were concerned about around bad debt and things like that,” Robinson says.

Aggressive steps taken by Ingram’s financial solutions group early in the pandemic, which included offering extended credit terms and rolling out tens of millions of dollars’ worth of incremental credit capacity, partly explain that fact, he asserts. Indeed, channel pros have been benefitting measurably from those actions all year, according to Robinson.

“Partners who used our financial services grew by 11% on average in a time when most businesses declined,” he said during today’s keynote. Inspiring more partners to leverage financing is one of Ingram’s objectives for this week’s conference.

“We continue to try and get that message out there to our partners that this is something they can do to help grow their business,” Robinson says.

With 2020 approaching its much-awaited conclusion, Ingram now faces the unenviable task of setting plans and sales targets for next year despite continued uncertainty with respect to COVID-19 and economic conditions. Robinson, however, is cautiously upbeat about the months ahead. 

“Personally, I’m optimistic,” he says. “There’s so many opportunities.”

Ingram named a customer experience chief for its U.S. partners and launched a new partner organization aimed at nurturing up-and-coming vendors at ONE today as well.

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