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THE ERT INTERVIEW JOHN FRANKS & MATTHEW BARTLETT


20


We have some other projects going through at the moment and if they do come off we will be quite a different company


ERT Editor, Jack Cheeseman, with Matthew Bartlett and John Franks


design anymore or whether it’s a shared platform. Chord Electronics’ products have a much


lower carbon footprint. If you look at the cost of manufacturing in China, shipping to the UK, whereas opposed to manufacturing down the road in the UK, you find the costs work out, if not better here, certainly equivalent, so where’s the advantage to us to do that. JF: I think to manage production elsewhere we’d spend so much time sorting issues, and literally it would take months of work, and yet if there’s a problem here, we just either get on the phone or we’re straight down the road and can be in front of the customer to sort anything out.


Q: Do you feel you’re pushing that ‘British message’ enough? MB: Probably not hard enough. But we are now changing and actually trying to fly the flag, literally putting Union Jack labels on everything, from business plants to banners and brochures, there’s more and more on the website now, so that’s a big push too. People assume we’re a different company than we actually are. JF: We have some other projects going through at the moment and if they do come off we will be quite a different company, and we’ll then be able to pump more money back into the audio side of the business. British technology is, because it’s the best in the world – it still is and it always was. I think we almost need a government campaign to raise the technology of the UK.


Q: Brexit… How has it and how will it affect you? MB: I think the issue really is that at the moment it’s the uncertainty that is causing the problems. Whether Brexit happens or not is fine, it doesn’t really matter to us, it’s just this uncertainty at the moment. Primarily, because there is this concern around the exchange rate, the value of the components that are shipped into the UK will actually be less than they supposedly were. And things like before the 29 March deadline, a


lot of courier firms were fully booked up, because everyone was either trying to ship in or ship out, so it was a bit of a curse. JF: In some respects, a weak pound is ideal for us as an export business; it effectively makes our products cheaper so it does boost export sales… providing we can get products out of the country! But if somebody could knock the politicians’


heads together and actually get someone to make a decision that would be ideal for everyone in the whole of the UK I believe.


Q: How is this affecting how you work with retailers? MB: We are lucky that the majority of the dealers we work with are proactive and that’s really important at the moment, actually getting up and doing something about it and making necessary changes. The retailers that are hugely successful go above and beyond what they were having to do a few years ago, but they’re getting the rewards for doing that. The demand is still there, but instead of sitting


in your shop waiting for people to come in, now you have to pick up the phone, talk to your existing customers, do a little bit more advertising, arrange open events, open evenings or music events. JF: It’s very much experiential as well. Most people spending this kind of money want to come and see and hear the products. So you need to invest back in your business. Open evenings can be hugely successful; it might require an initial outlay but what you get in terms of orders back in return is 10, 20, 50 times that. MB: Chord Electronics’ retailers are also very well supported with training programmes and things like that. They’re very well looked after with the same regular visits from the sales guys, the same training, so despite the company’s growth, the bricks and mortar stores haven’t suffered in any way at all, the relationship is the same.


Q: What do you think the future holds? JF: There will always be a need for good retail, because although people are buying more through the internet, I do feel that eventually people will tire of that, and they will want the retail experience again. And, I think they’ve never really gone away from that; when making major purchases, providing the retailer is proactive and has a pleasant environment to sell in, then people will still want to go there. With bigger products it’s all about finding out


the customer’s needs and showing them what they could do with these products. All Chord Electronics’ retailers are trained to do that.


John Franks


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