"We were damn scared of a massive round of reseller bankruptcies."
Alessandro Cattani (pictured) reflects that the April performance of Southern Europe's top distributor was one of plummeting volume figures and reseller partners being pushed to the brink of financial viability.
Speaking to CPI two days after his company logged the most successful quarter in three years, Cattani has shared how the distributor's fortunes turned around.
With EBITDA up 16 per cent for H1, and the annual revenue forecast upgraded to €4.3bn, Cattani says his firm has taken market share from competitors in the interceding months by extending support to resellers and honouring vendor contracts.
In his view, those distributors who did not extend such support to resellers at the height of the pandemic lockdown have since been punished by both partners and customers for disloyalty and "misbehaving".
"April was a really tough month for us", he said.
"We were down 19 per cent. More or less all lines of businesses were affected - with PCs being the least affected, in terms of order taking. But we were still in a situation of lacking products. We had a real shortage of products because we were still feeling the pain of the lockdowns in the Chinese factories.
"But then business in the months after was much better than expected, at least for us. We behaved properly with customers and vendors. I know that some smaller competitors are in big trouble because they were not able to pay suppliers or they misbehaved in not helping their customers.
"I do think we are probably grabbing share because of these bad behaviours."
Business for Esprinet began to pick up in May, when vendors resumed shipping.
However, local Italian restrictions though a presidential decree remained in place, compelling many businesses to stay closed.
At the time, Esprinet issued a statement to stakeholders in an attempt to reassure partners that they at least were "open for business" in Italy and Spain.
However, Cattani remains surprised by how much resellers and consumers resumed spending once local lockdown restrictions started easing in June.
"Once stores and companies could open, we thought that very few people would go in. But then there was traffic. So next we thought OK, yes, there's traffic but there's no money because people are furloughed, or even fired; they're afraid for their futures.
"But instead they went and spent... They spent like hell."
In just two months, sales in May and June made up for the double-digit pandemic slump.
PC and smartphone revenues were the key drivers of growth during that time.
But Cattani added that there was also a surge in cloud and software solutions, especially collaboration software.
He said that with August and September sales figures also climbing by double digits, the Vimercate-headquartered distributor expects to smash the €4bn revenue mark as early as November.
"I suppose we have to make probably more than €400m a month to hit that," he said.
"But I am very positive - very positive - about our outlook."
Esprinet has a headcount of 1,300 in its primary markets Italy and Spain, as well as in a smaller office in Portugal, which remains closed.
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