ScanSource Pushes Specialty Sales


Distributor points out four emerging opportunities


Bar code, auto ID, point-of-sale, telephony. What do these kinds of products have to do with you? If you're looking for a way to boost your sales during a tough economy, a lot.

VARBusiness' State of the Market research shows your best bet in bolstering sales is to target your existing customers; VARs surveyed expect 69 percent of their revenue to come from existing customers and 31percent to come from new customers.

"Even with the tough economy, there are pockets of customers who are being forced to add some new technology because what they have is just too old and is no longer efficient," says Mike Baur, president and CEO of ScanSource, a $497 million specialty distributor in Greenville, S.C.

Four opportunities have emerged that traditional VARs not typically focused on what ScanSource has to offer can quickly take advantage of today to increase revenue, Baur says.

  • The first is plastic-card printers. Baur says such printers can easily produce on-demand identification cards with magnetic strips, bar codes or photos embedded in the cards. "A lot of companies that previously did not use identification cards for their employees or other points where they want to control access now can buy a low-cost printer and software with a camera and implement a technology that will restrict or limit access," he says.

  • Traditional bar code label printers are another potential add-on for VARs. While there's nothing new about bar coding, more identification is being required on products today, and the need for bar codes is increasing. In the wake of the anthrax scare, for example, a large end user required its reseller,which in turn required ScanSource,to label any boxes shipped containing a "powdery substance" to be labeled as such to avoid misidentification. "Labeling applications have always been important to retail and manufacturing, and we see that continuing," Baur says. "We're not going to see a lessening of label printers."

  • Both videoconferencing and audioconferencing are also on the rise, particularly in light of Sept. 11 and the ensuing political unrest. "The whole idea of communicating in a sophisticated manner without traveling is where a lot of the action is currently," says Bobby McLain, vice president of marketing at ScanSource, which, through its Catalyst Telecom division, is a distributor for Polycom.

    End users may be surprised to learn that videoconferencing equipment is less expensive than they thought,$7,000 to $8,000 is typical. The key to a successful implementation, Baur says, is that the end user has access to high-speed bandwidth.

  • Finally, retail, which VARs list as a key vertical for the next several years, presents a significant solution-provider opportunity. One big emerging application is self-checkout. National retailer Kmart has started a rollout of self-checkout scanning solutions, and some large grocery store chains are offering self-scan and self-pay systems, with one human operator watching four systems at a time. The ROI for the merchants is clear. And the system is easy for customers to use,about the same as using an ATM machine with a scanner attached.