Some manufacturers favor the national broker concept. “It allows us to have fewer regional managers,” said Tony Shroder, president of convenient channels for Advanced Pierre Foods, which named G&J Marketing as its broker for every region except Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, which is covered by Twinsburg, Ohio-based Statewide Brokerage.
The case against high volume
“I have a tough time staying on top of my own state with three vend sales reps,” said Scott Rorah, president of Michigan Merchandisers Inc. in New Baltimore, Mich. “Every time those guys have done that (expand territories), I’ve seen the coverage go down.”
“If what happens in other channels of trade is any indication, national brokers many times just hit the top 20 percent, not the whole market,” said Ken Cain, owner of AVB Sales & Marketing, LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The national coverage isn’t usually as deep into the operator base. We (local/regional brokers) hit 100 percent, not just the top 20 percent. The deeper the coverage, the better the service to both manufacturers and the industry.”
Some manufacturers concur with this view.
“We’ve never even gone with anybody who’s even a regional broker,” said Bill Dennis, national director of sales at Kar’s Nuts. “The local guy tends to know things better.”
“The operator still likes to have a local broker call on them, someone they trust and know,” said Doug Lengyel, western regional sales manager at Promotion In Motion Companies Inc.
While many brokers have expanded their territories and their sales teams, these changes have in some cases made competitors out of former compatriots, which has reduced cooperation that sometimes improved the quality of brokers’ services.
Dave Gellman, president of Norristown, Pa.-based Gellman Associates, recalls when there were two nationwide broker associations. Today, only the National Vend Brokers Association remains, and it is a smaller group than it once was.
Andrew Young, president of the Natick, Mass.-based brokerage Harold W. Young Inc., envisions a network of independent brokers working together in the future, providing similar services as a national group. The operator will receive the same care a local broker provides but with the management and marketing support of a national organization.
For many, size is not the key factor
For many on both the operator and manufacturer segments, there is no debate; the size of the broker does not determine the quality of the service.
Paresh Patel, owner of Courtesy Vending in Portland, Ore., thinks that brokers and manufacturers alike could be doing a better job giving operators high quality products and information. He said some products that have been introduced have not been packaged right for vending.
As for sales data, he said brokers could be doing a better job providing him with machine-level sales data. “What’s being reported is not actually true (machine level) sales, but (warehouse) purchases,” Patel said.
Patel said there remains a need for more products that meet school nutrition guidelines, and the need for these products is not confined to school accounts.
“We’re comfortable with the value that the broker community provides us,” said Craig Harkins, sales director for vending and foodservice at The Inventure Group, a specialty snack manufacturer.
“It (national coverage) can be effective if the structure is set up properly,” observed Dave Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen & Associates Inc., the Minneapolis, Minn.-based brokerage serving a 5-state region. Rasmussen said a larger area can be serviced efficiently and effectively with the right team in place, but he is quick to point out that “efficient” and “effective” are not synonymous.
“Efficiency and effectiveness are not one in the same,” Rasmussen added. “You’re only going to be as strong as the individuals you have in each given market.”