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Channel Best-Sellers

Which products and vendors offer solution providers the most steady sales streams? CRN teamed up with The NPD Group to find out.

When I want a good plane-read, I look for a book on the best-seller list. And clearly, the same practice can be applied by IT solution providers: There are just certain products that are no-brainers for you to represent.

The genesis for this brand-new CRN special report, Channel Best-Sellers, brought to you with The NPD Group, the Port-Washington, N.Y.-based market-research firm, is pretty simple. It was born out of our mutual desire to recognize companies that might not lead their particular sector in overall market share according to traditional research firms, but that are formidable drivers of dollar volume revenue through the channel.

As CRN searched for a way to bring this idea to life, we began talking to NPD, which produces the Distributor Track data service. Ultimately, we decided that their measure of U.S. dollar volume through certain distributors, notably the members of the Global Technology Distribution Council and some select additions in key markets, was a reasonable measure of products that were best-sellers among value-added solution providers that don't buy direct from their suppliers.

What's published in this debut report represents a portion of all the different categories that NPD tracks. We zeroed in on 20 product areas in all, especially categories in peripherals, which represent lucrative add-on opportunities for many solution providers and often are the proving ground for competitive new channel programs.

In addition to listing the Top 5 Best-Sellers for most categories (there were a couple of segments that were either too fragmented or too centered on the top players to name five), we also highlight the best-seller that is growing most rapidly with the channel.

I'm perpetually interested in the underdog, so I'll be watching to see if this year's top-growth best-sellers live up to the promise of their 2006 results.

It was also refreshing to hear about some players I know less well, like document-scanner best-sellers Fujitsu and Visioneer, which both received rave reviews from solution providers contacted to comment for the story.

In some rarer cases, the top best-seller also was the vendor continuing to grow most quickly with the channel, at least as measured through distribution sales. American Power Conversion, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Symantec all earned that distinction in this year's report.

In certain categories, notably Internet filters, where there are plenty of emerging vendors, the results were somewhat surprising—that is, until you peel back the covers and realize that some well-known brands only sell through specialty distributors or direct to a smaller universe of partners. This also was true of some other security categories that have morphed into one another over the past several years.

Unlike our annual Channel Champions study, which measures channel satisfaction with particular vendors, this data shows the sales you are actually driving across the channel. Whether or not you choose to align yourself with the best-seller in a given category is a business decision that hopefully now will be easier to make.

Next: Methodology

The data for all Channel Best-Seller categories was gleaned from the Distributor Track, a service offered by research firm The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y. Distributor Track monitors the aggregate shipments of certain products through select distributors, notably the members of the Global Technology Distribution Council. All market-share percentages reflect U.S. dollar volume. In certain cases, companies that use only one distributor were not included in best-seller rankings because of confidentiality considerations.

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