6 Themes Contractors Want Distributors to Know in 2021

BY Emily Frost
2/3/2021 - HVAC Market Intelligence

HARDI learned through a survey of contractors in 2019 that product availability, price, and customer service are the most important channel attributes to contractors when buying HVACR-related products.

With COVID-19 creating perhaps the greatest customer service challenge in our industry’s history, how did distributor performance evolve in 2020 and how has COVID-19 affected contractor service preferences?

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In partnership with HARDI, Farmington Consulting Group presented the findings from its 2020 survey of contractors and answered key questions relating to the evolution of distributor sales performance and the future of contractor demand. These questions include:

  1. What do Contractors want from their distributors?
  2. What Value Added Services are important to contractors?
  3. What were Distributors’ shortfalls since COVID?
  4. What are Contractor expectations post-COVID?
  5. How have Contractors performed financially in 2020 and how are they projected to perform in 2021?

You will find a full detailed analysis with answers to these questions in the full State of the Channel report, however the Key Takeaways include:

1. Inventory issues persist

The lack of product availability continues to be a major concern for contractors. HVACR contractors are more open to buying from alternate channels due to the current product shortages.

2. Distributors are still #1

The overall consensus among HVACR contractors is that the independent wholesale distribution channel remains the best avenue for them to obtain their products. Independent wholesale distribution clearly outperformed every other channel in the eyes of HVACR contractors.

3. Alternative pickup options are here to stay

More and more contractors are seeking both contactless delivery services and alternative pickup options such as curbside pickup, drive thru, contactless delivery, lockboxes, etc. Those distributors who provide these services will separate themselves from others.

4. Territory Managers (TM) physical presence remains important to contractors

While some contractors may prefer to receive a phone call or video chat, the high majority still have a strong desire for in-person outside sales visits. This preference varies depending on region, contractor demographic and other factors but for now desire to connect in-person remains.

5. E-Commerce expectations have increased

The COVID pandemic has accelerated the e-commerce sea change in the HVACR distribution industry. More and more business will be conducted online as the next generation of buyers move into the industry and veteran buyers move out of the industry. Distributors who have a functional online ordering system will take market share going forward.

6. Positive financial outlook

The financial outlook for a majority of HVACR Contractors is positive going forward, and the financial impact of COVID was not as devastating as was originally feared. 


If you missed out on #HARDISummit, you can still watch all sessions, including The Voice of Contractors: 2020 and the Future of Sales and Service Expectations. You may purchase the OnDemand sessions, or if already registered, watch the playbacks.