Wholesalers who are worried that Internet companies will take their place in the distribution channel may take comfort in a recent article in the New York Daily News. The story says that some of these companies are dropping the "dot.com" from their corporate names. "The dot.com moniker - not long ago regarded as an instant link to unaccountable riches - nowadays all too quickly identifies a company as a money-losing start-up," according to the report.

Some of these companies say they are changing their name not to hide who they are but because "dot.com" already has become passe.

While these name changes may make it more difficult for customers to distinguish an Internet start-up from a legitimate wholesaler, especially one with its own Web site, it's fair to say that these new companies are learning an old lesson. Their success won't hinge upon the name they use but on the service that they provide.

But before any wholesalers say, "I told you so," we have to point out that the Internet and electronic commerce are going to be in their future, or at least in their customers' future. Wholesalers who use technology to make their customers successful will themselves succeed. We profile two good examples in this issue: Gustave A. Larson Co. and Davis & Warshow.

Larson Co. knows that its success depends on the profitability of its customers. Among the many services it provides contractors is a program that allows them to get a discounted price on computer equipment they need to become more efficient. Larson Co. also is putting customers in a better position to use its Web site, which will offer order entry later this year.

Is Larson Co. putting its customers in a better position to order product from Internet start-ups as well? Probably, but the wholesaler doesn't seem too concerned. Larson Co. wants contractors to have as many reasons as possible to do business with Larson Co.

That's the thinking at Davis & Warshow too. The wholesaler uses technology to help create an environment that gives its customers the opportunity to do their jobs better.

So far, the wholesaler's paperless warehouse is not tied directly to its Web site, but order entry over the Internet should happen in the next year. Davis & Warshow now can provide its customers up-to-date pricing and product information on its Web site and with a related CD-ROM.

Wholesalers who invest in technology that helps them to build upon their relationships with customers will compete just fine with dot.com companies, regardless of what they call themselves.