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Independently speaking

Contributions from

Mixing business with leisure W

orkable margins and a steady

footfall are top priorities for independents but market intelligence and business knowledge gained through the industry networking deserves a large tick in the box. Not surprisingly it was great to listen and chat with many colleagues at the recent retra conference in Gateshead. At such events we are again reminded of the great camaraderie that exists in our industry. It’s a simple formula: people engaging with people, gaining knowledge and sharing their views and opinions that could benefit their independent businesses.

Continuing on the same theme of good fellowship, final arrangements are complete for the annual SIRIUS Conference in Portugal. With all Preferred Suppliers and Members’ registrations made ahead of last year and a packed three-day agenda, a repeated success seems inevitable.

Similar to other successful SIRIUS events, this conference is a superb opportunity to interact with colleagues, and seen by SIRIUS Members as another benefit of Group’s membership. It’s not hard to imagine why on a neutral ground a different perspective for both Suppliers and Members is reached. Let’s face it, networking by the pool bar in a great location while enjoying a drink must be preferable to doing business in a usual store or office environment. It’s good to see the camaraderie within

the Group and frank and open discussions between Members and Suppliers. Not surprisingly, Members and Suppliers go back to their businesses with new ideas learnt from each other, having increased personal contact to mutually enhance their relevant business goals in the future. I recently caught up with the SIRIUS Group’s Chairman, Gordon Jones, to talk

Stuart Hopwood & Lingua Franca International

about his recent attendance at the KBB Exhibition and TRIC Awards. “Have we turned the corner?” I asked. “It appears some of our Members are experiencing an upturn in business. Interestingly, however, for those who have both bricks ‘n’ mortar and an e-commerce business, the upturn is more reflected in-store rather than online”, reported Gordon. He also added that the upturn has also been experienced by those retailers who are active in the B2B market, ie letting agents, small building contractors and kitchen fitters.

However, low footfall is still apparent although sale conversion rates with SIRIUS Members are high. Transparent pricing of the internet is still an issue for many retailers and some of them become agitated as customers trawl the displays armed with mobile devices to Google price comparisons.

Disgruntled with blatant ‘consumer guerrillas’ armed with Androids, iPads or iPhones, some retailers have taken a drastic action by installing a rather unusual store signage: ‘For security

reasons, cameras, iPads and other mobile devices are not allowed in these premises’. It is an independent retailer’s prerogative to do so although the legality of disguising product model numbers, so potential customers are unable to compare prices, could be questioned. As they say, there are better ways to fillet a fish.

As this ‘mobile shopping experience’ will only increase, maybe the industry should start looking at adopting its own CE search engine for the independents so the mobile shopper will be enticed to purchase from local independent retailers? Let me know what you think. Similarly to other SIRIUS Buying Group Members, Pete Gilks of Nailsea Electrical has seen margins change over the years. Only four years ago, 7% on range cookers was normal. Manufacturers realising their products had little or no presence on the high street, changed their support strategies in favour of the independent, with Rangemaster pioneering the high street retailer support. Nailsea Electrical is happy to say that now their margin on range cookers is 20% and higher. Pete Gilks commented, “I’ve also seen much more activity, with manufactures trying to secure shop floor space. The simple fact is I and my fellow retailers will not place products on the shop floor or in the window if we can’t make a sensible profit.” Slowly but surely, it appears that manufacturers are getting the message as retailers are becoming more selective about giving their support to the electrical brands. Finally, though business is tough, SIRIUS Members continue to fundraise for a multitude of charities, individually and as a Group, at all its functions. Over the past few years, with help of Suppliers, SIRIUS Group Members have raised in excess of £25,000 for Cancer Research alone. ■

“Disgruntled with blatant ‘consumer guerrillas’ armed with Androids, iPads or iPhones, some retailers have taken a drastic action by installing a rather unusual store signage: ‘For security reasons, cameras, iPads and other mobile devices are not allowed in these premises’.”

22 The Independent Electrical Retailer May 2012

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