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In a new quarterly survey from the American Supply Association, ecommerce in 2024 remains a priority to be tackled later by many smaller developers.

Though big exceptions exist, including digital powerhouse Watsco Inc., ecommerce remains a single-digit percentage of sales channels for many smaller plumbing and heating — and ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) — distributors.

In a new quarterly survey from the American Supply Association, a national trade association representing distributors, manufacturers and manufacturer representative agencies serving the plumbing-heating-cooling-piping (PHCP) and industrial pipe-valve-fitting (PVF) market, 64% of distributors predict their sales will increase in 2024, while 28% predict flat sales next year, with 8% anticipating a sales decrease.

For many of the distributors, however, ecommerce in 2024 remains a priority to be tackled later.

The survey asked distributors what percent of contractors are buying through their ecommerce commerce sites. On average, only 7.9% of contractor sales were done through ecommerce, with 44% of respondents reporting no ecommerce sales.

When asked if expansion was in the plans in 2024, 55% of distributors say they plan to expand whether through acquisition, opening a new branch or expanding their internal operations.


69.3 percent of respondents say they plan on hiring more people in 2024, while 56% of respondents say it will be easier to hire employees next year.

71% of respondents say there will continue to be wage inflation next year. The association did not say how many distributors took its latest survey.

Despite the fact that many smaller HVAC distribution companies lack robust ecommerce activity in their sales funnels, there are distributors moving aggressively to expand B2B ecommerce. Watsco is just one example.

For the fiscal third quarter ended Sept. 30, Watsco said ecommerce sales rose about 15%. Watsco ecommerce sales accounted for about a third, or $702.9 million, of total sales of $2.1 billion. It also noted that ongoing improvements to its digital commerce technology and practices have resulted in a 19% expansion over the past 12 months to 54,000 customers with active ecommerce accounts.


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