D&H Canada restructuring of ProAV business posts strong returns

D&H reworked its ProAV practice three years ago, investing significantly in it, and changing tactics around vendor and Go-to-Market strategies, with the result being that it has shifted from a minor area to a highly profitable one.

Chris Ralston, Executive Director of Vendor Management at D&H Canada

Distributor D&H Canada, which restructured the management of its ProAV category three years ago, has shown growing strength in the portfolio since then, both in terms of the amount of business done and the percentage of growth. In the fiscal quarter to date, which, with the fiscal year ends on April 30, the ProAV/collaboration area has posted 37% growth.

The ProAV portfolio has been around for many years, but it has evolved significantly over that time.

“The Pro/AV technology that existed around the beginning of the century was very complex, and they were closed, so that they didn’t talk to each other,” said Chris Ralston, Executive Director of Vendor Management at D&H Canada. “Now there is more openness to the solutions, with vendors getting away from the closed approach and talking to each other.”

D&H has built on this evolution to work with what they consider to be the more advanced vendors in the space. Two years ago they partnered with videoconferencing vendor Neat which unify remote and on-premises workplaces with advanced videoconferencing bars, audio solutions, and display boards for corporate settings.

“We are Neat’s exclusive distributor in Canada,” Ralston said. “They have unique technology and they pride themselves as being the Apple of the endpoint world. That message is getting out.”

The portfolio also includes LG Electronics’ line of immersive commercial displays, such as the intelligent MAGNIT MicroLED; and the increasingly popular Direct View LED indoor and outdoor signage solutions that accommodate a format of 100 feet or larger. It also includes ViewSonic’s high-performance digital displays, including a unique 135″ foldable and moveable Direct View LED display, the LDS135-151. These offerings allow partners to deploy bespoke, large-scale digital signage systems in a range of physical environments.

“These large format displays have been a key part of this category’s rise to become our fastest growing technology,” Ralston indicated.

Other ProAV vendors on D&H’s lineup card include Samsung, Logitech, HP Poly, Jabra, NETGEAR, ViewSonic, and Legrand.

On the collaboration front, key vendors are Microsoft Teams and Copilot, as well as Cisco and Zoom. Microsoft says that the Copilot digital assistant is responsible for boosting productivity for 70% of Microsoft 365 users.

D&H’s success in this area has been the result of a focused strategy that began three years ago.

“It has been a strong category for us since then,” Ralston said, “Before that, it was a comparatively  small area for us. Then, we made an investment and have really seen it take off, and drive a lot of the collaboration technologies that have been good for us.”

Ralston explained the details of the strategy and why it has been successful.

“We spent a lot of time understanding the marketplace and how to deliver solutions that make sense for our customers,” he said. “We have dedicated sales resources that can help them in the sales cycle, at both the front end with prospects and on the back end, with our professional services. We can help them no matter where they are in the sales cycle.”

Ralston indicated that D&H has also tried to simply the sales practice with bundles.

“These include areas like hospitality, education, healthcare and boardrooms,” he said.

Ralston also noted that it has been traditional VARs who have been taking advantage of these services.

“The ProAV people already know how to do this,” he said. “It is very helpful for traditional VARs figuring out how to rework their practices.”

Ralston said that compared to the U.S., the Canadian market is still somewhat behind the marketplace, the strong numbers notwithstanding.

“Business TVs are the top category for us, and outdoor signage,” he indicated. “Business TVs are on more than home TVs, so the mean time to failure is higher. They have to be more durable.”

The organization of this portfolio is also different in Canada from the United States.

“It diverges a bit,” Ralston said. “In the U.S., it falls into the Modern Solutions Business Unit. In Canada, it’s a standalone business unit because of differences in the management layer. You have a dedicated person running the category who lives in Canada and owns it.”

Ralston said to look for more from D&H in this category.

“We are continuing to grow in this space and to invest, focusing on bundles, and on vertical markets,” he stated. “We can work with partners on financing. In addition, in our new facility with third party business. We have the capacity for large rollouts.”

ProAV vendors were featured at the D&H Canada THREAD Technology Roadshow which took place March 20 in Edmonton, at The Westin Edmonton in Alberta. D&H Canada has historically focused mainly on the largest markets for these shows, but this year is consciously looking to hold THREAD shows in more places.