Distributor Favorability Ranked (North America)

By IPVM Team, Published Jun 29, 2017, 12:26pm EDT


What North American security / surveillance distributors do integrators favor the most? The least?

150 integrators rated and commented on the following 8 options:

Selection Process

We choose these distributors / options based on member feedback and our analysis of common choices for North American video surveillance / security purchases. Amazon and AliExpress / China were included to determine integrator's favorability to rising alternatives. There are many other distributors in North America, those excluded were done based on our perception of them either being smaller or not focused on video / security (e.g., Ingram or TechData).

Note, we limited results to North America since distribution choice is frequently specific to one's local market.

No Promotional Use

These results, as with all IPVM research, may NOT be used promotionally, as it violates our terms of service and is against our fundamental philosophy of independence and research, not marketing.

Ranking *******

** *** ***** ***** shows, *** ****** *** highest ***** ***** ******* the ******. *************, ***-**, now ***** ** *******, scored **** ****** **** their ****** *** *********** main ********* ******* ***-** was ***** ***** ** Anixter:

********, ******* *** *** and **** *** ******** negativity ****** ** **********'* displeasure **** *******'* ******* direct *** ******** ******* of **: 

** *** ***** ****, most *********** *** ***** positions ** ******* *** ADI *** **** **** on *** ** ***, two ******* **** *** not **** **** *****.

**** ***** ********, ** would ****** **** ***** smaller / ***** *********** ** receive **** ******* ******* as **** ***** **** of *********.

ADI *******

*** ****** ******* ** our ******. *********** ***** ***** **** *********, ***** stock ******, ***** *****, and ***** ******** *******. 

Amazon *******

****** ** *** * security ***********,*** *********** **** ** them*** ******** ***** *** carried ** *********** ************. They **** ***** ******'* low ****** *** **** shipping. 

Anixter *******

******* ****** *** ****** in *** *******. *********** *** **** ** a **********, *** ** their ******** ** ******* direct ** *** *****. Integrators **** ********** ***** their **** ***** ******, high ******, *** ******* unethical ******** *********. 

CSC/Wesco *******

*** **** *********** *** CSC/Wesco, *** *** **** who **** ********* ***** their ******* / ******* ** well ** ***** **** generation.

PSA *******

*** *************** **** ***** ** PSA, *** ***** *** have **** ** ********** their *********** ******* *** training. 

Scansource *******

********** ****** ****** ******* in *** *******, ******* ****** **** name *********** **** **** of ***** ***********. *********** liked *** ******, *******, and *********. 

Tri-Ed *******

***-** ****** **** ** our *******. *********** ***** ***** prices *** *******. *******, many ********* ******* **** their ***** ***** ** Anixter. 

China ****** / **********

******** ****** **** *********** ********* *** ** our ******, **** *********** seeing **** ****** ** being ****** ** *********** as ****** **** *******. Integrators ***** ******* ********, lack ** *******, *** shipping ****** ** ***** main ********. **** *********** mentioned **** **** ***** be * **** ****** for *** ******** ********** or ******* ********.


Comments (30)

I have had nothing but great experiences with Anixter. My guess is that the accounts that they takeover are from unsatisfied end-users dealing with bad integrators.

I'm not sure how that makes much sense.... If a client buying Sony cameras is unhappy with their integrator, why wouldn't they just go to another integrator selling Sony cameras? How would that justify a distributor jumping in front of dealers to sell cameras direct to an end user?

And I'm not disputing the possibility they give you a great experience. The best con artists have smiles that put you at ease while they're reaching in your pocket.

I don't think it's right. I am just saying it hasn't happened to me. My experience with Anixter has been pretty good.

First, you are listed as an "Undisclosed Distributor", for your sake, I hope you do not work at Anixter. 

Second, anytime a distributor takes a call from an, 'unsatisfied end-user' and does not refer them to one of their "valued integrator partners" but takes over the business for themselves, there is a problem. Period. 

Third, all distributors have local representation, meaning that the experience one has will be different from region to region. The value of these kinds of reports is that they provide an average response, in this case specific to NAM, that cover many regions, integrators large and small, working in many different markets.  There will always be out-liners, really, really good experiences and really, really bad experiences. However when Anixter is listed below Amazon and a Chinese based distributor (again only in reference to NAM) this is not good. 

Anixter was once considered a major player with substantial value. 10 years ago I would have opted to buy from Anxiter over ADI. With increased integrator competition, having your distributor, who is supposed to help you close and win business, potentially now become you competitor, there is a problem with your channel integrity. 

1) No sir. I am not an Anixter employee.

2) You are right! They should be sending, 'unsatisfied end-users' to another integrator vs selling direct.

3) I am shocked that they are listed below Amazon and AliExpress. My experience in the TX market has been pretty good with them. Perhaps there are some regional issues like you are saying.  

Personally, I don't think AliExpress or Amazon should be listed as distributors. They can and will ALWAYS sell to the end user and there is no value added assistance like ADI or Scansource.


To your last point, totally agree. Surprised Amazon and Ali are listed. 

This seems to only further support the shift many of us are seeing. A moving away from being a specialized industry to more of a consumer market. While there will always be the enterprise/federated level type projects, the barriers to entry are becoming less and less allowing for more entrants, creating further competition, degrading value, losing effectiveness... 




I see a few valid reasons why Amazon would be listed:

1. When purchasing some commodity items I find Amazon response time and tracking far outweigh the cons.  For example, I would never purchase cameras, VMS, or access control components from them.  However, I do frequently purchase items like UPS and 1U LCD KVM consoles from them.

2. The risk on those commodity items being shopped by the end user is low.

3. There is a cost for me having to get a distributor to quote product, turn the quote around, cut a PO, send a PO out, and repeatedly ask for shipping data.  All of that is avoided with Amazon.

4.  I can tell immediately their stock levels, lead time (2 days for Prime shipping), and track via email/web/text message when items ship or arrive without going through hoops on my end.

5.  On certain items, I can request quantity breaks with my business account.

6.  I do not rely on distributors for any product knowledge so that value add is limited to me.

7. I can deliver to non-business accounts (e.g. technician residence) even on Saturday without someone to sign.

Overall Amazon is just more convenient than a distributor.  Their breadth of product is not great and the prices are not always the best.

UI3 -

Thanks for sharing, I appreciate your perspective and input. You touch on some really good points; as well as address major gaps in the 'value' distributors bring.

From a manufactures perspective, distributors bring three primary points of value: 

  1. Sales force multiplier - additional people selling your product to the integrator channel. Knowledgeable and experienced staff, adding value to your products in the field. 
  2. Inventory Management - carry stock, help manage run-rate business and control inventory in the field.
  3. Financial risk mitigation - they hold the credit lines with NET 30-60 for integrators with less than perfect credit. This reduces loss of revenue due to it being tied up in back-payment for the manufacture. 

(Some distributors have turned this into another profit center by offering credit card services)

From an integrators perspective, you hit on some great points:

  1. Access to a wide range of products
  2. Technical ability to help 'build the project'
  3. Inventory and supply chain management

As actual profit dollars have decreased, it appears, per the survey above and by your post, distributors are moving into more of a transactional business, while missing a lot of the components of transacational business (as you pointed out), and have reduced their overall value.  

Going back to my previous point, the fact Amazon is listed is more of a knock against the traditional distributors than anything. ADI, Anixter, CSC, Scan Source ,et al, would do well to consider the points you addressed. 


At the core of most of what I post on IPVM is this: the PhySec market is moving away from being the specialized, skilled industry based on integrity and value, to a consumer based market. Manufactures, distributors and integrators (I include myself) have shifted away from solving real world, security problems, to pushing products and turning projects. I know this is not true for everyone, I know there are many, many good people with a passion for the technologies and value we bring to our clients. However, there is an unsettling shift towards high volume, high turn, consumer-centric sales strategies and focus. 


I agree with your points 2 and 3.


From a manufactures perspective, distributors bring three primary points of value:

  1. Sales force multiplier - additional people selling your product to the integrator channel. Knowledgeable and experienced staff, adding value to your products in the field.

Manufacturers consistently complain about distributors ability to be sales force multiplier. There are some distributors, typically smaller ones, that are 'value add' but most manufacturers see large distributors as primarily box movers that need to be incentivized by running promos / sales (see ADI).

You are right, maybe I should have preface my statement with, "what manufactures hope to get out of distributors". I have never seen point 1 fully work to the benefit of the manufacture. 

The big guys need a lot of incentivizing, while some of the smaller guys are just excited to have access to your products. The tension for manufactures is, A) invest in getting 40 small distributors turned on or B) invest in getting 2-3 distributors, with a national foot print, turned on. What is the best return on investment of time and resources... 


In my experience, the ability for distributors to actually act as a sales force multiplier depends a lot on the simplicity of your product. While their impact is likely going to be low even in the best case scenario, where they are most effective is for simple things and add-on products.

Example 1: Integrator calls in to order some cameras, cable, etc. Also needs a couple of ethernet over coax adapters, but not familiar with brands/models, asks distributor for a recommendation, likely buys whatever is recommended.

Example 2: Integrator normally does mostly burglar alarms, customer at a new job also wants a small camera system. Asks distributor for something good/cheap/easy to install, winds up with a Hikvision TVI kit, probably happy with it overall as well.

In both of these cases the distributor was in a position to recommend a specific product, and technically responsible for the sale, but did not actually generate those opportunities. Still, to the manufacturers involved, they look like sales that came in with no involvement from those manufacturers and would be viewed as productivity by the distributor.

Negative Example: Your product is a higher-end model, or something more complex like thermal people counter. Those products are used in applications where the customer and integrator are much more concerned about the outcome. The integrator is not going to call and order "some cameras, some cable, and throw in a thermal people counter as well". They are (hopefully) going to do some research, talk to the manufacturer, etc. When they finally place an order, it is more likely to be for an exact product, or maybe it's down to two different models and they ask the distributor for things like data on returns, which one is more popular with other integrators, etc.


This too is a good point. Simplicity is a key factor. 

I would add, they push whatever they have on the shelf. Which in the case of ADI, costs extra for manufactures to have shelf space, but it is a focus for many store front, based distributors. Case in point:

I once was in an ADI office, doing a counter day, sold a guy on my product at the time. Looked it up and quoted it on the ADI computer. Walked away to tend to another customer, the ADI sales guy flipped him to a Honeywell product he had on the shelf (possibly was getting a spiff). I walked out.. 


Depends on the distributor and select people within distribution. ADI and Tri-ed are typically seen as box movers but there are certain insides salespeople that have deep influential relationships. ADI outside RASs can be a tool. CSC, Graybar, Anixter have end-user facing teams who can be well utilized as an extended sales force. ScanSource inside sales are trained to provide great support beyond box-moving and their RAMs (similar to ADI RAS) are very influential.

Of course, it always comes down to strategic relationships 

No Graybar?


No Graybar. We had an open ended 'other' question asking what other distributors integrators used and Graybar still had few selections. Graybar is clearly a big overall distributor but, from the responses received and our general review of the market, not that common for security / video surveillance products.

From my experience, having worked with Graybar as a manufacture selling to them, Graybar is used by the more traditional Electrical Contractor , who are getting into the PhySec space. It is not a traditional distributor channel for IT, PhySec or Low Voltage contractors. While I am sure there are exceptions, this is not the rule. 

Mr. Bylsma - 

It has been my experience that Graybar is indeed a channel for IT and low voltage contractors, and I thought that a large percentage of their business was PhySec.

in fact, I would have thought that their security business was on par with Anixter's.

in fact, I would have thought that their security business was on par with Anixter's.

Anixter does ~$2 billion USD annual security revenue (that's a combination of Tr-Ed who they acquired in 2014 and Anixter's own security business).

I doubt Graybar is anywhere close to Anixter/Tri-ed in physical security sales.

But we don't know, Graybar being employee owned and not required to release information, correct?

I left Anixter before the Tri-Ed acquisition, so my comment was based on dated intel.

We don't know the exact number but I am very confident it is far far lower than Anixter's or ADI's for that matter, which also is the multi-billion range for security products.

Again, I am not against Graybar, there is just no evidence that Graybar is a major distributor to security integrators for security / surveillance. And there is plenty evidence to the contrary based on our various surveys, e.g., Top Selling Video Surveillance Distributors

Having worked with Graybar in my past role I can say that the only camera companies I saw them sell were Acti, Arecont Vision, Pelco, and Hanwha. I think they sell Milestone and maybe a few other VMS products but they are not focused in security overall.

Digital Watchdog and Interlogix as well

Graybar came knocking on our door I think like 3 or 4 years ago. Problem with that was we were out at ISC West lol.

Their focus really isn't security. I suspect some security integrators might use them a bit if there is one right now the street from them in smaller markets but I'm not even sure how much or what they stock. 

I can actually take that a step further. They have had their national sales and training conference the last 2 years the SAME WEEK as ISC West. I had to leave ISC West this year to attend their conference in San Diego. Needless to say, when they sent out the post-conference survey I made extensive comments about scheduling the event for the 2nd straight year the same week as ISC West.

We had a handyman call us up once. He had gotten a parts quote for Paxton from his Graybar rep. The handyman wanted to know how much to have us install the parts and including having him help out to save on labor. We declined.

Graybar is primarily an electric supplier, per their About Us page. They are listed by the SEC as a Wholesale-Electrical Apperatus & Equipment, Wiring Supplies Company. 

I am know they DO sell IT, infrastructure and security products (as I have sold to them myself, as a manufacture), historically, however, they are used by ECs. They are not a traditional channel for IT or PhySec integrators. 

They had around $6.4 Billion in revenue in 2016.

Graybar is a good company, just not a major player in the PhySec space. 


Adding some details to that, their 10K 2016 SEC filing breaks down their revenue:

I do not believe they list specifically physical security or video surveillance but given how they report their revenue, it's likely quite a small percentage.

Additionally they have only Pelco, Arecont, Techwin, Speco and UTC as listed security products (Keyscan for EAC). They are missing a lot of brands to be even considered a player at this point. They do not even have Hikvision.

Im no longer sure where the value of the Distribution Model actually is.  When we need something, we are told that it's not in stock, and that it is shipping directly from the manufacturer.  We are then assessed freight for the item/s.  So we go pick up the item at Will Call and wind up spending half of the morning at will-call because the order hasn't been properly transmitted thru to the warehouse.   Where does this happen?

Almost everywhere at one time or another.

The second biggest concern we have is the return policy among distributors.  Nothing is returnable if it has been touched in any way or the original packaging has been lost or touched in any way.  Return policy, whether generated by the manufacturer or the distributor needs to be more flexible.  This is where Amazon does do a better job. Being denied a $200 return because a 25 cent piece of cardboard has been misplaced or has been opened is unreasonable.  It is the Distributors responsibility to negotiate better return policy with the manufacturers.

Distributors beware.  If Amazon can give WalMart a run for their money, they can destroy you no matter how big you think you are.  

We think all Distributors can do a better job at the customer service level.  Some are better than others, but all are lacking in CS at some level.

A few months after this report came out, we were doing for us a major install. We had ordered a very large LCD monitor (about 90") from CDW. Because of Hurricane Irma, CDW's shipper was saying they were going to be up to a week or more late delivering the monitor than promised. This put us in a very bad position.

We called our rep at CSC/Wesco. They used a relationship they had with a shipping company in the area of the warehouse where the monitor was, and the next day worked out having them pickup the monitor and delivering it to the job site. They took care of the logistics and later invoiced us for the shipping.

That is service!

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