Wholesale distribution, like many business sectors, is continually evolving It’s influenced by a myriad of factors ranging from global events to tech advancements. As we make our way through 2023, the industry has experienced and will face a complex web of challenges that demand attention, innovation, and strategic planning. In this article, we will delve into the top risks for wholesale distribution in 2023 and explore the underlying causes and potential solutions for each.

1. Global Supply Chain Disruption

The foundation of the wholesale distribution industry rests upon a resilient global supply chain. However, the events of recent years have exposed its vulnerabilities. In 2023, several major factors pose a threat to the smooth functioning of supply chains:

  • Geopolitical Tensions: The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has the potential to disrupt the supply of raw materials, including refined rare earth minerals, which are crucial for various industries. Also, key transportation lines may be impacted, causing additional disruptions.
  • Disease Outbreaks: The ongoing uncertainty of disease outbreaks, exemplified by the resurgence of COVID-19 in China, can result in manufacturing slowdowns. Such interruptions can cascade down the supply chain, affecting distribution and availability.


  • Rethinking Procurement: To mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions, it is imperative to rethink procurement models. Embracing agile and flexible approaches, and diversification of suppliers, can increase resilience.
  • Inventory Management: Just-in-time (JIT) inventory practices may need to be adjusted to account for possible delays. Counter to JIT, maintaining a strategic buffer of essential materials prove to be a smart move.

2. Workforce Shortage

The structure of the workforce has undergone significant shifts due to the pandemic, leaving the wholesale distribution sector dealing with a shortage of skilled personnel. The causes behind this shortage are multifaceted:

  • Misperceptions: The perception of wholesale distribution jobs as primarily blue-collar roles has created misconceptions that deter candidates from exploring opportunities in the field.
  • Aging Workforce: The retirement of the baby boomer generation has led to a gap that is proving difficult to fill. The experience and knowledge these workers take with them pose a challenge to business continuity.
  • Skill Mismatch: The evolving nature of distribution technologies has led to a gap between required skills and available personnel. This make the workforce shortage even worse.


  • Community Engagement: Establishing stronger ties with local communities (e.g., schools, underserved neighborhoods) can help dispel misperceptions about distribution jobs and attract new team members.
  • Training and Reskilling: Offering training programs that address the skill gaps can transform your existing workforce. Providing employees with the necessary skills for advanced technologies is absolutely needed.
  • Incentives: Providing better pay incentives and benefits can entice talent to relocate, alleviating geographical differences in skills availability.

3. Inflation

Inflationary pressures have resurfaced, affecting economies globally. For the wholesale distribution sector, inflation has significant implications:

  • Consumer Price Index Rise: The noticeable rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with a 9.1% increase as of June 2022, raises concerns about pricing stability and therefore consumer demand.


  • Supplier Base Expansion: By broadening the supplier base, wholesale distributors can enhance competition, possible leading to competitive pricing and improved negotiating power.
  • Contractual Flexibility: Including provisions for uncertainty in customer contracts, such as fixed costs and variable sales prices, can create stability in unpredictable inflationary periods.

4. Semiconductor Shortage

The ongoing semiconductor shortage has rippled across industries, affecting everything from electronics to automobiles. In the wholesale distribution sector, this shortage has specific implications:

  • Demand-Supply Gap: The demand for semiconductors has outpaced supply, creating a challenge for distributors to meet customer demands.
  • Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: The consolidation of suppliers has made the semiconductor supply chain vulnerable to disruptions, expand the shortage’s impact.


  • Reshoring Initiatives: Government policies aimed at bringing chip manufacturing back to countries like the US will help to alleviate the shortage and make supply chains more resilient.
  • Design for Resilience: Incorporating resilience into design and manufacturing processes can soften the impact of future supply chain disruptions.

5. Cybersecurity

As the wholesale distribution industry becomes digital, the potential for cyberattacks has expanded significantly. The traditional approach to cybersecurity will no longer be sufficient:

  • Shifting Perimeters: The dissolution of traditional security perimeters due to remote work and interconnected systems has increased vulnerability to cyberattacks.


  • Zero Trust Framework: Adhering to a zero-trust approach ensures that every access request is thoroughly vetted, reducing the risk of intrusion.
  • Modular Security: Implementing security measures based on the principle of least privilege can reduce the potential modes of attack and minimize the impact in case of a breach.
  • Automation and Planning: Automation and engineering have become essential for implementing robust cybersecurity measures. A comprehensive strategy should address foundational issues and automate manual processes.


In 2023, the wholesale distribution industry faces a diverse array of risks that demand innovation. The global supply chain’s vulnerability, workforce shortages, inflationary pressures, semiconductor scarcity, and evolving cybersecurity threats necessitate a thoughtful, strategic, and proactive approach. By embracing new procurement models, investing in workforce development, working with vendors and customers to address inflation, exploring reshoring initiatives, and implementing cybersecurity measures, wholesale distributors can navigate these risks and position themselves for resilience and growth in 2024.

We’re committed to helping clients leverage technology to drive business growth. To learn more about the top risks for wholesale distribution and how to address them, please call (310) 539-4645 or click here to schedule a time to speak with one of our experienced consultants. Also, stay tuned for our report about what wholesale distributors should be preparing for in 2024.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can wholesale distributors mitigate global supply chain disruptions in 2023?
Wholesale distributors can mitigate global supply chain disruptions by rethinking their procurement strategies. Embracing agile approaches and diversifying the supplier base can strengthen resilience. Also, adjusting inventory management practices by maintaining strategic inventory buffers can help counter delays caused by supply chain disruptions.

What strategies can wholesale distribution companies use to address workforce shortages?
To address workforce shortages, wholesale distribution companies can take several steps. For example, establishing stronger ties with local communities, such as schools and underserved neighborhoods, can dispel misconceptions about distribution jobs and attract new talent. Also, offering training and reskilling programs to bridge skills gaps and providing better pay incentives and benefits can help in attracting skilled individuals. Finally, offering geographical incentives to relocate talent can alleviate skills availability differences.

How can wholesale distributors work through the challenges of inflation in 2023?
Wholesale distributors can work through inflation challenges by expanding their supplier base and fostering competition. This could potentially lead to competitive pricing. They can also create stability in uncertain inflationary periods by including provisions for price uncertainty in customer contracts, such as fixed costs and variable sales prices. By employing these strategies, distributors can better manage the effects of rising prices and maintain pricing stability.