on the board On the Board Simon Oliver – RKW Housewares Sales Director

What is your career background? I started my career working alongside college and university in the retail industry at Tesco and I enrolled on their management training programme. My next career move saw me as a store manager for Iceland and after which I started my career in sales with a marketing agency for Kelloggs followed by a few years selling chocolate with Lindt. In 2004, I moved into the housewares and SDA industry and found my passion selling predominately multi -national brands to key customers. Now, I have been the Sales Director for RKW for 3 and a half years and have a total of 17 years’ experience in the industry.

Tell us about the company you work for RKW, Europe’s leading distributor of SDA and housewares products, and a trading division of Sutton Venture Group (SVG) has a 30-plus year pedigree in successfully developing and distributing top brands and products with a group turnover of £150m+. RKW designs and manufactures for its owned and licensed portfolio of brands. As well as flagship own-brand Tower, this includes Black + Decker, Morphy Richards, Akai and Carmen. RKW distributes for leading brands including Breville, Russell Hobbs, Swan, Hoover, SMEG, Lavazza and The Funky Appliance Company to name a few.

What is a typical day like for you? A typical day for me is very varied. I spend a lot of time catching up with my team to ensure they are motivated and inspired to develop great working relationships with our customers. The dynamics of my day have certainly changed in the last 18 months due to the pandemic and the need for remote working. An increased emphasis on communication to ensure our teams feel fully supported and we stress the importance of their mental well-being. My role now varies between home base working and time in our offices where relevant, typically driven through customer meetings in our showroom based at our head office in Stoke-On-Trent.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

What springs to mind as the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing my team develop on a personal and professional level and progress through the business. There are many people at RKW that started their career with

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us straight after school and are now in managerial and directorial roles. Secondly, I receive a huge level of satisfaction from seeing our products either in stores on shelves or online with retailers and I’m always proud of our team for building collaborative relationships and category growth with our customers.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Recently, due to the shipping difficulties in our industry, conversations around price and stock availability have been challenging. We pride ourselves in our openness and integrity with our customers and sometimes we are put in the unfortunate position where we have to share unwelcomed news from the macro economic environment that we can’t control. Also, Tower is now the fastest growing brand in many of the categories that it operates in and RKW as a business has seen exponential growth year on year. The fast-paced dynamics of our business mean there are always new challenges to get your teeth stuck into and our tenacity and creativity as a team has really shone through particularly in the last 18 months.

What new products have impressed you in the industry? Of course, with the exclusion of any products that we have bought to life (he jokes), I’m really impressed that our industry has taken their eco-responsibility seriously. There are some fantastic fully sustainable products out there that are not only manufactured in a sustainable way but also help the consumer to do their bit for the future of our planet too.

What challenges are suppliers facing? Since the start of the pandemic, shipping prices and a drastic shortage of containers have caused huge challenges for suppliers. It was forecasted that after Chinese New Year, shipping costs would eventually return back to pre Covid levels however this is still yet to be seen. Container rates from China to the UK have jumped 300% vs the same period in 2020. This has significantly increased the cost of products in general and our team continue to work closely with our longstanding factory partners and forwarders to minimise the increases as much as possible.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen? Putting the impacts of COVID to one side,

the rise of e-commerce has been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career. Now consumers have so much more choice when it comes down to their purchasing decision so it’s important products stand out from the crowd. We invest heavily into our design and marketing teams to produce best in class product content whether that’s images, feature benefits or videos to help to bring our products to life. This being said, we still see the importance of the high street and have a dedicated sales team who regularly visit and support our independent customers.

What advice would you give someone starting out in this industry? I think it is really important to be genuinely passionate about the products and the company that you’re representing as that enthusiasm will naturally come through in your communications with customers and stakeholders. I always tell people to be honest with your customers and learn as much as you can from the people around you but most importantly, enjoy what you do.

What do you enjoy doing on weekends and in your free time? On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my friends, family and my three dogs. I have three Great Danes, one of which is a puppy so our house is never quiet! We are currently renovating our family home so there are plenty of DIY jobs to keep me busy in my free time.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?

A Swiss army knife Bug spray - because I always get bitten where ever I go and an MP3 player to listen to music and audio books. July/August 2021

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