Most distribution execs expect to see solid results for the rest of 2018. Many firms are addressing the future of the industry, even if they're doing so in different ways.
"I think one of the long-term trends we'll see is big petrochemical firms aligning with big distributors," said Moisson at Jamplast. "Then there will be a second tier [of distributors] aligned with smaller niche-type materials like bio-based resins or elastomers or acrylics to help rep smaller [material] suppliers that don't get attention from larger distributors."
At Bamberger, Pignataro said his firm won't be affected by being recently acquired by Plastiche SA, a Luxembourg firm controlled by the same family that controls materials giant Ravago Group. Ravago's businesses include resin distribution.
"We're still a separate entity with our own sales and management and financing," he said. "There's no intention to change what's worked. We're all excited about the future of industry with the addition of branded distribution partners."
M. Holland might look to add more compounders to its line card, Ed Holland said, and to find ways to benefit from exclusive distribution deals, such as the one it has in the United States for nylon-based materials made by Teknor Apex Co. of Pawtucket, R.I.
He added that consolidation among the customer base has also been a challenge, with several customers now buying directly from resin makers. At the same time, Ed Holland said, M. Holland "always is looking" look to add to its line card through acquisitions or new suppliers.
Conventus plans to "aggressively expand our product line for specialty products with our good value proposition," Jorgensen said. The firm has also added two sales reps in the last year and intends to add one or two more by the end of 2018.
Relationships are also a driver at Osterman.
"This is a relationship business," Dever said. "When my career is over, I want to look back and be proud that we've provided service while being competitive."
He added that Osterman is now working with its seventh sales training class. The firm has hired more than 30 sales reps from its first six classes.
General Polymers recently moved into a new, larger office space and plans to add four or five new sales reps this year, according to Kirtley. The firm has also had its materials approved by several new customers.
PolySource plans to hire two or three more sales reps this year and is looking for new materials to grow its geographic reach.
"We continue to talk to new suppliers to find more materials that fit into our mission," John said.
Nexeo is facing inflationary costs on lumber, pallets, cardboard, steel drums and pails, but it still expects "steady growth" for the rest of the year, according to Williams. The firm plans to build "a more robust online presence" and is providing more access to shipping data and real-time inventory information to its sellers.
The image of plastics remains important to PolyOne, especially in light of recent challenges to single-use plastics and concerns over ocean plastic waste.
"Plastics are extremely valuable materials making important contributions in every industry," PolyOne's Horn said in an email. "Further unlocking that value with more effective, universal recycling and awareness programs will entail collaboration among industry, consumers and infrastructure globally."
Customer relations also remain a big area of focus for Chase and other distributors.
"You have to constantly drive value," Kevin Chase said. "I don't care if you're selling to your sister-in-law. Great companies are good at delivering value services."
Resin distributors see tightness in some materials, but report steady growth