Q: Why is it important for you to host this event? SJ: Commercially, for us as a buying group and in our industry, it’s imperative. We run a calendar year so we strategically hold our trade show and AGM in September to help us as a Group achieve our rebate targets, and again, allow members to focus on maximising their rebates as we approach the end of the year. Events like this bring everyone together to speak face-to-face and that works best in the industry we are in. People do business with people. Some suppliers are fortunate enough to have bigger sales teams that can make more calls across the country, but each company is different and they can only do what they can with the resources they’ve got. But our trade show brings all suppliers together, big and small, in the same format and the key focus is just to do business. We’ve always had really good attendance at our trade shows and it’s great for all of our suppliers to see so many retailers in one room, to speak to and get feedback from all without the distractions of being in their own workplaces. You never know what comes out of these conversations. It’s crucial for our members to speak to other members, about what’s working, what’s not working and sharing ideas. Some are taking big leaps and moving into perhaps unfamiliar areas, but some of our members have done really well because they’ve asked around and others have given them the courage to move forward based on their experiences of how to avoid classic mistakes! We don’t want to be viewed as just another buying

This is one of our responsibilities as a buying group – to make sure that we provide as many options as possible for our members. We can’t just have a one- size-fits-all approach; different solutions will work for different businesses, but the more ideas we come up with, the better… simple as that.

Q: What about the online side of electrical

retail… How is Sirius members’ sites.

We don’t want to be viewed as just another buying group; our role is to add value to both members and suppliers... we’ve all got a common goal at the end of the day.

Above: Steve Jones with Peter Gilks, Director of Sirius Buying Group (centre), and Gordon Jones, Chairman of the Group (right), at this year’s Sirius Dinner Awards

group; our role is to add value to both members and suppliers. When everyone is together and there’s time and money invested there is a lot of shared gratitude – we’ve all got a common goal at the end of the day.

Q: What else is new at Sirius? SJ: Our business in kitchen studios is really starting to gain traction. We’ve always had a small foundation there, bubbling away in the background for the past 12-18 months, but we’ve seen good growth in our kitchen furniture business and we have some big plans coming up too! This will enable us to develop further in this area, strengthening the Sirius Group, which our suppliers and existing members will certainly all benefit from! We have started working more closely with Symphony Group and the support they have shown our members who have been considering moving into kitchens has been great. They’ve seen the potential of Sirius as a good vessel for them to expand their kitchen furniture business with electrical retailers. They like that we have something unique to offer that adds to an area they specialise in

and we really complement each other. This has enabled us to enter into the kitchen market and get access to retailers that perhaps we wouldn’t have done otherwise. We’ve also been able to offer something new to our existing members and those that have always been tempted by the idea of kitchens; in the past I don’t think they’ve really known which way to turn or had the confidence to make the move into this area. But Symphony has come along, taken the bull by the horns, as it were, and really helped these retailers every step of the way to move forward.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for retailers to consider moving into new product areas? SJ: There’s no denying this year has been a very difficult year. We’ve got some of our members investing in their own businesses in their own ways, but some are more significant than others. Our members that are re-investing are really reaping the rewards, which just shows that in times of uncertainty it’s easy to sit back, cross your fingers and hope things will get better, or you can take a leap of faith and add new strings to your bow.

developing and helping retailers when it comes to their websites? SJ: Well, earlier on this year we ventured into a new project. We’ve always had a website platform for our members and the heart of this is the product catalogue, with over 6,000 products; we keep this up to date with the help of our suppliers and Digital NRG manages it for us. The platform is really successful – we have 70 websites live across the membership and combined they receive on average nearly 500,000 page views from 100,000 visitors per month. The next stage for us is continuing to drive traffic through our main site to our It’s something we noticed

this year with the market being the way it is, people have still got money to spend but they’re being more considered about how they spend it and they’re doing thorough research. So the key for us is not to encourage e-commerce per se, but making sure our members have a good presen ce online.

Q: How will this work then? SJ: We’ve created websites within a website, showcasing Bosch, Hoover, Hotpoint and many other key suppliers. They have all got their own brand pages, but now they have got a lot more content sitting within their brand pages on each members’ website to provide more information to the consumer. And it looks great too! We’re producing original content for these sites – sometimes product reviews, sometimes just obscure blogging! It’s really good to see some of the articles that are coming out.

Q: Why are these changes important for Sirius? SJ: We all know where research starts these days and with today’s technology it’s easy to do this on the go. So we need to make sure that our members can be found, so we started a project to increase organic SEO of our members’ websites with some suppliers that are part of the project too. This is what a buying group is all about – working together; this sort of thing isn’t cheap for retailers to do individually, but if we can do this centrally and spread the cost, it’s quite a reasonable proposition. A lot of work has gone into this and we finally went live in August; since then, we’ve seen a significant increase in organic traffic to our websites. This is an important way forward for us and for our retailers, as consumers are increasingly using a variety of technologies to shop nowadays.

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