Stihl Inc. recently welcomed Dr. Andrew R. Thomas, author of “The Distribution Trap: Keeping Your Innovations from Becoming Commodities,” to its headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va. Thomas took part in a documented discussion with Stihl Inc. President Fred J. Whyte on the recent release of the book, which features a chapter examining Stihl’s unique dealer-only distribution strategy.
Nearly 50 Stihl managers and other distinguished guests from the local community were present to welcome Thomas and listen to his discussion with Whyte on why Stihl chooses not to sell to big-box stores such as The Home Depot or Lowe’s. Both men agree that manufacturers who choose to sell to so-called “megas” often face weakened product control that can hinder quality and innovation. Whyte also discussed the Stihl stance on selling solely through independent servicing Stihl dealers and the benefits this practice has to consumers, such as the ability to educate customers on safety procedures and equipment.
“The story of Stihl is a story of invention, creativity and quality, coupled with service, loyalty and vision,” said Thomas in his book. “It is the last of these, a remarkable clarity of vision, that has kept the firm out of the distribution trap.” He also made a point to mention that he has received no funding from Stihl for his work. Thomas also revealed he and his co-author’s interests were piqued after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal headlined “Too Good for Lowe’s and Home Depot?,” which discussed the decision by Stihl to stay away from big-box store sales.