"A rising tide lifts all the boats."
Or so the saying goes.
You'd struggle to find a better expression to sum up the state of the European channel right now. The phrase suggests that macroeconomic factors are king, and that - so long as the economy is healthy - everyone is healthy.
So to what extent is this true for resellers today? Let's look at the evidence. Germany - Europe's largest economy - enjoyed 2.2 per cent GDP growth in 2017, its highest rate in six years. Unemployment rates across the EU are at their lowest point for over 18 years at just 6.8 per cent.
The PC market is in its best health for more than six years and its top manufactures HP and Lenovo are in better shape than ever.
And share prices have followed suit. Computacenter's stocks are at their highest value since the year 2000 and the company has a market cap of £1.6bn (€1.8bn); Bechtle's are at their highest point since it performed an IPO at the start of the millennium, at €3.75bn; and Munich-based Cancom's shares hit a historic high in its 26-year history earlier this year.
Is it a coincidence, then, that the industry's biggest players are digging into their pockets to splash out on M&A?
Bechtle made its largest-ever acquisition in July, buying up €420m French reseller Inmac Wstore, while Computacenter - whose CEO has always been an outspoken critic of growing through acquisition - only last week made an uncharacteristically large deal for Misco Solutions in the Netherlands, a €134m turnover firm. Lastly, Cancom made one of its largest acquisitions when it made a splash in the UK for €80-turnover OCSL.
And that's not all. Computacenter is looking for a US acquisition that could run into an eight-figure sum, and Amsterdam-based channel partner Getronics managed to double its size by pulling off one of the channel's biggest acquisitions in recent years when it merged with American MSP Pomeroy.
We can expect more M&A in the channel while resellers take advantage of their high market caps. The industry's biggest players have proved that they're willing to dig deep into their pockets and make bold decisions while the tide is still rising.
The channel isn't just using this unusually buoyant period to expand their footprints through M&A; it is also experimenting with new lines of business.
Bechtle has just launched its own IT accessories line of branded products to sell directly to customers. Meanwhile, in the Nordics, Atea is pushing its own SaaS platform Appxite, and has this year started to form distribution partnerships around the software.
It appears that a rising tide is inspiring the channel to step outside its long-standing role as a middleman between vendor and customer, and is using this rare period of affluence to experiment, push the boundaries and try new, exciting things.
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