Aviall is pretty good, if you're not in a huge hurry or mind spending $$ on AOG shipments from the Dallas warehouse. The local sales outlets don't seem to have enough stock on the shelves.
Check on prices too. Aviall seems high on some items like hardware (nuts, bolts, cotter pins, etc.)
I don't like buying tires from them, unless they're running a deal on them. Batteries seem OK though. If you're buying batteries, buy a bunch of electrolyte at one time since the haz mat charge on shipping is high. The haz mat for two quarts is the same as 15 gallons, so I would get a bunch at one time, enough to service 8-10 batteries, and only get batteries as needed.
I never had a problem with shelf life limited items (ELT batteries, etc) because they move large quantities over the shelves.
For Lycoming engine items, I mostly use Superior Air Parts, unless the customer has a preference.
Personally, I don't like having only one or two suppliers.
Aviall is okay. I have found them a bit inconvenient to deal with. Shorter hours to call, I'm put on hold a lot, most of the items that I need are in Dallas, website search tool does not yield useful results, last I knew I could not "save" the items in my shopping cart for later.
I am much happier with API, http://order.apiparts.com/ .Pretty much the same stock but longer calling hours, they answer the phone promptly, the person answering is competent and usually knows exactly what I am talking about and will offer a less costly alternative if available, free shipping on internet orders over $50 and most items that I order are less expensive from them over Availl. The drawback to API is that although you can request papers for traceability, they do not have a nice little 8130 like we find with Cessna parts. The only other annoying thing is that the index on the catalog is very poorly designed. Hard to use so I usually end up flipping through the pages until I see the picture of the item that I want. They need to follow Graingers lead on how to construct an index. I have already mentioned this to two of my API representatives.
I'm with erj-145mech, set up accounts with and utilize multiple vendors.
Yea, they are ok for some things, I have been a buyer for my company for a while. I did not use Aviall much though, found things cheaper and the other vendors were happier to supply us.
I guess the big question to you is, "what type aircraft and in what location do you need the supplies?"
I am currently employeed at a refurb/maintenance repair station in the Dallas area for corporate aircraft (Challengers, GII thru GV, Falcons and Hawkers) and I have used Gulfstream for most of my supplies - nuts, bolts, sheetmetal, etc.
But for components, depending on the aircraft warranty and parts program, I use the ILS to search the items and then use one of the vendors I have used in the past.
Here are some #'s that you can call for bit-pieces:
Gulfstream 214-902-4614, ask for Sarah (off on Mondays)
Action Aircraft Supply 214-637-3598 (use to be Aircraft supply)
Those guys had me tearing my hair out (and I have none to spare!). Almost always had the parts order screwed up, it was practically a cause for celebration when the order was correct!!! Sometimes the guy in the wharehouse would proclaim "it's all there this time" lol!
I can only speak from the flight school supplies perspective. When I first started with them it was like pulling teeth. I had to call the sales guy and have him call the PDX or DFW office to give us price breaks. So, I get 50% off on ASA products one day, and then I have to call him to get a price break on GE lights. Then, when i need to order Champion spark plugs, I have to call the guy again.. The same thing goes on with tires, oil filters, etc..
On the other hand their website is extremely good. I had to call in an order only once and that was because of their credit card authorization system failure.
They also don't carry Jeppesen supplies, so I am getting my Jeppesen things from another distributor..
Our flying club is looking for a "one stop shopping" place (really no such thing though) for spares/supplies. They seem to be the "Sporty's" of that business. I only know of them because they ship a lot of packages.