An Interview With Ranson Roussel, President of The Distribution Point
by Jim Olsztynski
Ranson Roussel, President of The Distribution Point
Posted: August 1, 2011 From Supply House Times
“I think that the future is bright for independent wholesalers.” —
An industry veteran who cut his teeth at Texas-based Morrison
Supply, Ranson Roussel was responsible for one of the PHCP
industry’s most notable recent startups when he founded Birmingham,
Distribution Point (TDP)
in 2003, as a master distributor supplying plumbing wholesalers with
an extensive inventory of leading plumbing brands.
The ensuing years have been economic hell for many of TDP’s
customers. However, a recent conversation with TDP personnel
revealed a rather significant turnaround. Master distributors have a
unique perch from which to observe industry trends, so we decided to
get some input from TDP’s president about issues impacting his
business and the industry as a whole.
Supply House Times: Do you believe a recovery is underway,
and if so, what’s driving it, given that the housing market is still
a train wreck?
don’t believe that a recovery is underway, although the economic
climate is certainly not as bad as it was. I suspect that we will
see some lift during the election cycle; however, until we have some
predictability coming from Washington, I do not foresee businesses
deploying their capital reserves. The Obama administration’s effort
to repeal LIFO could have devastating effects on our industry and
the economy in general. Also, I am not confident that the last wave
of foreclosures is behind us as many of the 7-10-year adjustable
rate mortgages written prior to the crash have not come to term. If
the economy is still soft when those ARMs (adjustable-rate
mortgages) come due, we could see further erosion in the housing
sector as homeowners try to refinance an asset that has lost
Q: Independent wholesalers are the lifeblood of master distributors.
What’s your assessment of the future for independent plumbing
think that the future is bright for independent wholesalers.
Independents are entrepreneurial, passionate, hard-working business
people who enjoy what they do, and have the freedom to make
long-term, strategic decisions without having to worry about hitting
an earnings forecast.
Q: How has your business evolved since it started in 2003? What are
you doing differently today that you didn’t do back then, and has
anything taken you by surprise?
has certainly helped. Starting any business is difficult, but
entering a market with well-run, well-respected competitors is
incredibly challenging. As we have grown, we have been able to drive
continual process improvements and work our supply chain in ways
that were not possible when we were a much smaller company.
Q: Have you observed any significant trends in your customers’
purchasing habits, either in the products they buy or the way they
the last several years, we have certainly seen the trend move
towards repair and affordable luxury, clearly a sign of the times.
We’ve also seen that our customers have changed the way they
communicate and order from us, evolving from phone and fax to phone,
fax, e-mail, EDI, instant messaging, etc.
Q: How are you adapting to competition from the Internet?
don’t compete with the Internet because we don’t sell to contractors
and consumers. Some master distributors in various categories have
elected to have an e-commerce presence. However, I view that as an
inherent channel conflict that violates the commitment we have made
to our customers.
Q: I notice increasing reference to your company as TDP instead of
The Distribution Point. This reminds me of Kentucky Fried Chicken
transitioning to simply KFC, Federal Express to FedEx, United Parcel
Service = UPS, and so on. Are streamlined initials an advantage from
a marketing perspective?
Distribution Point is certainly a mouthful, and it is our customers
who started calling us TDP. From a branding perspective, I like The
Distribution Point, as it gives an insight into what we do. However,
TDP seems to have become a quick, readily identifiable acronym.
Q: What are the most pressing day-to-day issues you face in your
a complex inventory of 25,000 SKUs is not without its challenges.
Over the last several years, we have worked diligently to adjust the
depth and breadth of our inventory offering to the new economic
Q: If you could wave a magic wand and change any single business
practice of your vendors or customers, what would it be?
biggest change I would make would be for branded manufacturers to
spend more time and effort in writing and enforcing Internet MAP
policies. We have seen massive brand erosion from manufacturers who
have failed to act by either not enforcing their policy or not
having a policy or distribution agreement. It is my feeling that
wholesalers will not support and provide showroom space for vendors
who do not rein in the MAP violators.