How do you feel when a national distributor sells cheaper to a one-off consumer than you can buy with terms?



How do you feel when a national distributor sells cheaper to a one-off consumer than you can buy with terms?

With the market continuing to shrink a certain distributor (Wolseley UK) is actively targeting the consumer with prices that are cheaper than we have ever purchased at . How does that affect your margin? How will you continue to be competitive? Why do they charge you considerably more for buying over the counter?

(The above is quoted and copied from the forum)


This is a recent discussion in a plumbing group on LinkedIn. This happened in the UK however it happens here in the USA. This is a concern to the professional trade’s person when a wholesaler decides to sell to the consumer at the same or lower price than they sell to the professional installer. Is this a sign of the economic times or is it simply a sign of the times where the loyalty of the professional and supplier has diminished?


Each person including me that has responded has an issue with the wholesaler selling to the consumer. The concept of a wholesaler is to sell to a professional contractor not the consumer. The Distributor  for the manufacturing company sells to the wholesaler wwho hten sells at wholesale prices to individual contractors.



I grew up with a father that owned and operated a plumbing wholesale supply house. It is funny and not ha ha funny reading these threads as these are the same things that were stated back in the 60’s and 70’s. The same thing plumbing professionals receive from their customers are exactly the same questions and objections plumbing professionals throw at the suppliers concerning price and purchasing elsewhere for less. It seems like almost everyone is more concerned with beating down another then educating and consulting their customers.


We seem to want to place blame on home centers and the ease of getting merchandise. However back in the day any of lumber yards, Stambaughs , hardware stores, 84 Lumber, Sears sold plumbing directly to the consumer. I can remember HWI and True Value hardware store and more recently ACE hardware having the materials. Everything a plumber could get, these places could supply to the public including lead, ladle, oakum. I do not believe this was a killer of our profession back then and I still do not believe that it is today.


What is a killer in our profession is there is no separation between a plumber and whoever with the way they look, communicate, and act in a professional manner. I am a huge proponent that we do need qualified licensed professionals as even one of the simplest tasks can create a disaster. Something as simple as the wrong trip lever on a toilet can and frequently does cause property damage by flooding with unqualified people installing and selling products. I recently visited a home where a person installed the wrong trip lever and it caught on the front of the tank. Combine this with a toilet stoppage and the home owner going to bed she woke up to a flood in the morning.


Back in the day showing up and saying I am the plumber was good enough and people would wait weeks if not longer for a plumber to show. Beating on our chests proclaiming to be one of the best also used to be enough. Treating the customer as an idiot for not knowing any better used to be accepted by customers. Times have changed however the way we conduct our business remains the same in many cases. I hire a licensed plumber, HVAC, Electrician not a communicator why can you not hire both in one? This does not mean he or she must be versed in sales it has nothing to do with sales. Having the ability to communicate effectively with consumers is a must in today’s economic climate to build separation between you and the unqualified.


Some of what contractors are asking for they do not respect in other trades. How many of you work on our own vehicles? Tell me working on brakes is not as important as installing a water heater correctly. How many of you call an electrician to replace a light or receptacle? You name it many have tried to do their own work. How can you condemn a home owner concerning your trade when we do not respect other professional trades?


We have a broken record that somehow never receives attention. The same thing gets repeated over and over and a question of why is this not working is beaten to death. It is time to stop blaming others for the misery that is caused by the professional trades that took years to finally get to the terms it is now facing. There are 3 things you can do.1 you can deal with it and try to work around the consumer purchasing their own materials. 2 you can do nothing and refuse to work for that consumers.3 you can learn to communicate more professionally and create separation between yourself and these dreaded machines that sell to the consumer. You can educate and consult with your customers in order for him or her to make a better decision to allow you to have the burden of covering the warranty on the products.


The time is now for you to take action and get off the sidelines blaming others. Get involved in the revolution of change and evolve from the old way of thinking. Talk to your supplier to see what can be done such as gaining commitment from them to stop selling to the public and to help set up events. Stop thinking everything revolves around price. What can be done is a series of events to educate the consumer to product liability and how it is of more benefit for the consumer to pass that onto you the professional. Consult with the consumer on why certain products work better than other products. I could spend very little time influencing a decision with the benefits of typing on a computer verses the old typewriter. Invite the public to such events for plumbing heating and air conditioning and electrical products.


It is time to do something and get the PHCC involved and other organziations. Speak to the local Chamber of Commerce’s to spread the word. Give a shout out to local radio stations to see if they could lend a hand in serving the community better. Help the consumer help themselves to a better, smarter, and hipper decision.


About practicebetterbusiness

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Posted on December 1, 2012, in communication skills, How to sell HVAC, How to sell plumbing, HVAC sales, plumbing sales, Selling HVAC, Selling Plumbing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’m not a plumber but I can tell you how I feel about it…unless there selling some cheapened version of the original, they should be shot. if that’s not in the cards, I wouldn’t deal with them… and I don’t. This happens in the jewelry trade where not only a wholesalers but manufacturers s well sell both wholesale and retail. (either openly or through a different brand)

    While I understand the reasoning, I can’t understand the depth of motivation (greed or desperation) nor can i understand the lack of value put on the wholesale retail relationship.

    I see it as stupidity on the parts of the wholesaler (for the above reasons, mainly lack of ability/courage to find a way to generate new sales), the consumer (because they are mostly so guillible to fall for the lowest price and hype) and the tradesman who would buy from them.

    If’s degrading to all parties as well and degrades and ultimately the product (over time because the general consumer will settle for less and that’s what the mfg will offfer).

    So, basically, I hate that it happens but i’m happy it doesn’t happen to me.

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