September 2019

Stop number 2

The second stop of the day was only a few minutes drive away – Stellisons of Canterbury. The Store Manager, Charles Jordan, met with us and spoke with Stuart about product sales and what was selling well in his store. He said that brown goods, in general, “weren’t doing great”. He added:

“We are selling plenty of products, but not like we used to. In fact, 10 years ago it used to be a split of 60 per cent brown goods and 40 per cent white goods. Now, we’re lucky if brown goods accounts for even 10 per cent of the market.” Conversation later turned to floorcare. There were a range of products on display in this Stellisons store, including multiple Dyson models. But Stuart informed Charles that Morphy Richards might soon be coming out with a new competitor cordless product; he did not elaborate on the details, but told Charles to “keep an eye out”.

Stop number 3

In the afternoon, Stuart and I drove to Maidstone to visit another couple of retailers. The first was Home Media in the town centre. Stuart had not made a specific appointment and unfortunately the person he needed to speak to was not in the store at the time. Stuart said: “Sometimes that’s just how it goes – it’s part of the job.

If you’re just popping in un-planned the decision-maker isn’t always around. But I’ll catch up with whoever is in the store anyway and at least find out if they need any stock replenished.” The final stop of the day was at Sevenoaks Sound and Vision at the top end of Maidstone high street. Stuart had a long conversation with Paul Ashby, one of the AV installers (pictured above with Stuart), and they spoke about new audio products from Big Red Sales.

To get a deeper insight into the work of a Big Red Sales rep, I joined Stuart on a trip to Kent to find out how he represents the latest product innovations to ensure his dealers can stay ahead of market trends.

After this last visit it was time to head home.

Stuart said that from Maidstone he would have nearly two hours travelling before his working day finishes. He added that he usually catches up on his admin in the evenings, as he would rather spend the days getting round to retailers to conduct business face-to-face. During our day on the road, I spoke with

Stuart about what he likes about his role and how he thinks retailers will survive current difficult trading times. “I love the freedom of working under the Big Red umbrella, but being self-employed,” he said. “I always try to be out five days a week seeing people; you’ve got to be motivated! “And my car is my office on wheels! The boot is normally full of demo products and brochures, but I’d rather that than have nothing to show dealers when I visit.”

Stuart added that he finds that the independent market is growing. “Year-on-year the indies that we work with are up; we take a lot of pride in that it shows we’re doing something right for these dealers,” he said.

If dealers are closed to new ideas and new

Q: How has the market changed over time? SH: As an example, every dealer will tell you that the digital TV switchover was the best time for business. But now, people are looking at new technology all the time; the rate of change is incredible and dealers have to investigate the latest TV ranges in order to remain relevant. The industry is moving forward and what dealers can make their margins on is changing. Big Red Sales only looks at brands where the

retailers can make good margin, perhaps on a wall bracket, or a kettle or toaster, but maybe a lesser brand won’t offer this.

Q: It’s evidently quite tough to make good margin on TVs at the moment. What do you think the answer is? SH: The TV market is so squeezed it’s beyond belief. You’ve got to have the big TV brands, these names are what most consumers know. But take Mitchell & Brown – it might not be one of the big four names but the product is just as good, with a longer warranty and the retailer could easily make good margin.

In fact, I’ve visited dealers and tried to identify gaps that we could plug organically with Mitchell & Brown products. Dealers love to try new things; they can make an order, get it next day, there’s no delivery charge, no minimum order. It’s a really relaxed approach.

products they could be missing the next big thing for their business.

Q: You helped Phil at Canterbury Hi-Fi measure- up for a possible new Vogel’s display stand. Is it common for dealers to be so open to making those kind of changes? SH: Sometimes, yes. Not all dealers realise that Vogel’s like to help with displays and it can’t hurt your business to try these things. It’s a free display wall and there’s a chance to increase your bracket sales. It’s a premium product. For every retailer that we’ve put this display into,

interest and sales have skyrocketed due to the ‘touch and feel’ nature of the display. So we know it works.

Q: How do you think today’s retail landscape is likely to change? SH: During my time in the industry, there have been a lot more dealers closing down than opening up. Those retailers that are remaining are the ones that aren’t just waiting for customers to walk in the door; if it’s quiet they will redesign the shop window or do something to increase interest. Maybe get creative and pop something on social media. Unfortunately some retailers don’t embrace social media, or even the internet as a whole, and that’s risky because it’s a huge part of the market these days – no two ways about it.


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