Electronics distributors lose control as pressure to innovate increases

By Mark Zetter

The electronics distribution model is in disarray. Industry leaders are positioning to find secure footing and focus continues to shift for some as control of the electronics supply chain is changing. The dominant business model remains to be seen.

From our perspective combined with discussions with distribution insiders it appears electronics distributor Avnet is seeing retraction in penetration despite recent financial reporting; Arrow is seeing moderate (single digit) increases, Mouser and Digi-Key both are experiencing double-digit growth and so is TTI.


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Premier Farnell (acquired by Avnet) is becoming an anchor for Avnet, having still not figured out what to do with Premier and as one insider says, “Premier is pulling Avnet deeper into the pool.”

Allied Electronics, a leading distributor of industrial automation and control products, electronic components and electromechanical components, is showing double-digit, strong growth. The same with Master Electronics.

Then there’s Samtec, a leader in the electronics interconnects industry and manufacturer of connectors, cables, optics and RF systems with channel systems support from IC to PCB and beyond and, TE Connectivity, which designs and manufactures connectivity and sensor products for harsh environments in industries like automotive and industrial are also seeing healthy growth selling directly to OEMs, and doing so quickly with innovative platforms and transaction execution.

None of this is surprising given the growth is seeing in the number of electronics OEM inquiries for contract electronics solutions in the industrial, robotics and automation markets.

Add to this there is continued consolidation and related activity such as distributor America II Electronics being acquired by private equity Wynnchurch Capital.


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Furthermore, non-competing, non-OEM components manufacturers like Texas Instruments are partnering up leaving distributors with near zero influence on the supply chain compared to years ago.

Distributors moving boxes

Not to be left out of the conversation, Amazon has thrown their hat into the ring helping push inventory for distrubutors like Future Electronics, currently with no less than 40,000 SKUs. Looking at Amazon’s history of disrupting industries know this is only the beginning of Amazon-distributor partnerships as distributors scramble to compete and gain a wider audience of buyers and replace buyers they are losing to more innovative distrubtion competitors. Electronics distributors are being reduced to buildings moving boxes driven by the fast and free mentality of buyers.


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Buyers want ‘click-to-cart-to-door’ and they want it now. Most electronics distributors cannot get it out fast enough and nearly all electronics distributors have been slow to adapt.

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