Disturbing Distributor Activities

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting, May 14, 2008.

  1. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    Ok, I dont ask for much on this forum... I would really appreciate you all reading this and giving me your opinion on how you would handle the situation.

    I have enjoyed a very good relationship with my distributor since I opened my business. I now purchase about 95% of all my outdoor lighting materials from them and this has been the case for some time. I am also recognized by this distributor as one of their largest clients in the Province.

    I have just learned that my distributor is working with another company here in my market area providing them with free lighting designs and specifications for their jobs. I have also just learned that this company ( a landscape construction / maintenance business ) is investing in full time staff and assets to go into landscape lighting "full time" and that my distributor is providing their staff with free, onsite, intensive training.

    As I see this, my distributor is reducing the lighting design / specification component of a job to the level of a free service and they are giving an unfair advantage to my competition. Now with this business going into the outdoor lighting market in a larger capacity I expect to be bidding / competing directly against them, only I have to account for the price/time of my designs etc.

    I know that competition will always exist and sometimes increase and I dont have an issue with that. I do have a problem with my distributor going out and providing free services to my competition, essentially giving them an advantage.

    I have talked extensively to my account rep and the distributors position is that they have been doing this for 20 years and it is their way of developing their market share.

    So, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?
    Do you think this constitutes an unfair business practice?

    I would really like to hear a lot of different opinions on this.... There is a lot riding on my decisions right now.
  2. dwightschrute

    dwightschrute LawnSite Member
    Posts: 33

  3. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    Yes many manufacturers offer free design services, but that is not the question or the situtation I am talking about....

    (I have railed against 'giving away' lighting design services in the past, I think it completely de-values our skill and expertise as designers and contractors and I think that in so doing, the whole industry is hurt by it.)
  4. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    You need to understand one absolute truth. everyone is out for himself, one way or another. The distibutor will do what they have to do to better themselves. If that means developing the market so they sell more product and in the end hurt you, they will do it. I really only have two local distributors and I buy little from them, mainly because of price. they are constantly having training seminars to train irrigation and waterfall guys how to install lighting. The only reason is so they sell more lighting supplies. NOT to educate the contractor.

    And yes, I do believe they are providing your competition an unfair advantage. but the only weapon you have is to buy your product elsewhere. It is a weapon you can only use once. Use it wisely.
  5. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    I understand your point there David... What I dont get it their "strategy"... Lets say there is a 2000 unit per year market here for them... and I am currently buying 1800 units per year from them and the other guy is buying 200. So now they come and give him an advantage, free designs and free training... but the market place doesnt change, still 2000 unit demand. But now I am pissed off and drop them... The new guy isnt going to pick up all the loss for sure as I am still in the game, in a big way...

    So instead of them gaining more market by their actions, they have served to loose a big account by developing a small account.

    I still don't quite know what I am going to do... keep the input coming please
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,113

    Hey James,
    I feel your pain. I have not had to deal with my local distributor going onsite doing lighting designs for others mainly because there is no one qualified to do it. The manufacturers sure hold a lot of classes that teach a whole lot of guys how to wing it, which just increases my service calls. I would ask if they have offered the same services to you, but I am very confident your knowledge of this industry far surpasses anything they could know. Therefore it would be irrelevant for them to offer this kind of service to you. David is right in the aspect that all distributors will do anything to increase their bottom line, which in turn will equate to a greater bonus at the end of the year. It still pisses me off that they breed mediocrity this way. What do you have for a backup source of material? Are they as reliable and well stocked as your current distributor? It is a tough decision to make, but what other advantages or benefits do you get from your current dist that you may not get elsewhere? Sometimes the only way to get the message across is with $, or in this case the lack thereof for the dist. If there is another good dist. in your area, you may be able to sit down with them and create a good product deal with them up front. Good luck James, I don't envy your dilemma.
  7. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    from what I have seen of manufacture or dist based design assistance is they try to cram maximum product on a job or it leaves alot to be desired. Dist are there to sell lighting period. I agree with Tim 100%. They are usually salesman and many have installed very few if any fixtures. I have gone thru exactly what your speaking of already. I also have a contractor here that does lighting in 12 states.

    If your company is as remarkable as you say it is I doubt you will see any loss of business from this. The One advantage they will have over you is they are already in the picture for the landscape and irrigation work and usually brought in durring construction or pre construction.

    There is definatly a market for the small company who takes care of thier client in a special way.
  8. seolatlanta

    seolatlanta LawnSite Member
    Posts: 176

    Well, speaking for myself only , it is my job to help out a contractor who needs my help and is going to buy the fixtures from me as well. I also find an opportunity to train somebody CORRECTLY from the ground up, before some other hack shows them how to daisy chain fixtures all into the 12v tap. I see it as a golden opportunity to get someone to focus on design and having fun with lighting and showing them the right way to do lighting from the start as I was taught.

    James I would not be upset with your distributor at all, they are just doing their job. I would be more upset if they didnt do it , and you are fortunate to have an excellent local distributor. This company most likely wont be your competition as they will be focused on installing lighting on their hardscape installs and will have nothing to do with your customers. It will be obvious as to who the expert is and who the new guy is .

    It is actually helpful to you either way, and your distributor has a job to do. I would suggest not ruining the relationship you have over this. It may turn out the other company ends up doing a couple of installs and then a guy quits and they dont do any more. It happens all the time...
  9. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,830

    Welcome to my world James! Although pretty much everything I would have to say about this has already been said, I will summarize. Business is business, and your distributor wants as many people as possible purchasing product from them. My distributor is mainly in irrigation, but they have a full time staff member that does nothing but design/layout for irrigation contractors. I wouldn't say your distributor is giving them an unfair advantage simply because the service is also available to you (if you needed/wanted it). Look at it this way: If you were the distributor, would you be content selling product to one company and limiting your sales based on the amount of work he could do by himself? Or would you rather recruit dozens of contractors, help them get started, then supply all of them into the future. In the long run, some of these contractors are going to be significant; therefore, the distributor will be in a better position financially by not having all of their eggs in one basket so to speak. The sum of business that several of them will do will eventually outweigh what you alone can do by yourself.
    It's the same thing as asking Nightscaping to sell products to just your one company. In a perfect world, each of us contractors could have a manufacturer and distributor that was 100% loyal to just us. That's not going to happen, obviously, so you shouldn't get upset. It's just business and everyone wants to capitalize in every way possible. As David said, this may help you by giving outdoor lighting more exposure. You will lose some business over this, but healthy competition is a good thing (although it does suck).
  10. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    Of course time will tell what happens with "the other company", but they are a very large player here in the green industry and have been experiencing strong growth in terms of market share and company size. They have just invested in a new 'team' to focus on lighting and have the financial wherewithall to back that team up.

    I fully expect to see them going after the 'lighting only' market very soon, and with the help of my distributor, their staff will be poised to compete from a very strong position.

    1: My distributor knows about my product selection and installation style
    2: My distributor is providing them with free design & specifications, giving the other company a competitive advantage
    3: My distributor is training them for free (not a one day seminar... I am talking on site, one on one, intensive oversight and trainging here)

    I am really pissed off about this situation.... We have had a decade long 'relationship' that I thought ran deeper then it obviously does. I guess I have been naive to think that another business would have my business' best interest in mind.

    I have several PO's on my desk right now and the thought of sending them off to my distributor pretty much makes me sick.

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