JPD: Channel tunnelling

Expanding customer base to include pure bathroom retailers and independent merchants

15 Apr, 19

Managing director of JP Distribution Graham Bucktrout is set to extend the current kitchen-biased business to attract sales from pure bathroom retailers and independent builders’ merchants

JPD: Channel tunnelling

Established for nearly 40 years, JP Distribution was originally founded by John Beckingham and Peter Bence.

Following Peter Bence retiring from the company, the family-run business is still in the hands of the “Beckinghams”.

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It has a distinct and historic bias towards kitchen sales, as John Beckingham worked at Gower, prior to setting up JP Distribution.

And he supplied the furniture through the business alongside Crosby Kitchens and Bernstein brands.

Now the company is led by managing director Graham Bucktrout, who joined the company from Lecico and has previously worked for Imperial Bathrooms and Jacuzzi UK.

Graham Bucktrout comments: “My brief is to build the business and grow. In what I believe is a compressed marketplace, you still need to drive forward; you need to drive growth and activity.”

The Dewsbury-based business is set to achieve a £13million turnover this year and has a short-term target of £16million.

However, Bucktrout believes in its current form, with up to 100,000sqft of warehousing space, the business can manage a turnover of £20million.

Targeting bathroom retail

JPD: Channel tunnelling 1

On top of organic growth, “that comes through having great product and great people giving exceptional service, which has to be a given”, Bucktrout is also seeking new routes to market.

Unsurprisingly, with his background, he is targeting bathroom retailers: “We’ve enjoyed success in bathrooms but predominately bathrooms sold through kitchen retailers, and they might sell one or two bathrooms to 10 kitchens.

“Whereas, we want to build the product offering and portfolio around bathrooms to have a meaningful offer to true bathroom retailers.

“That’s an exciting and fresh channel with the same needs, wants and dynamics of our core customer.”

With its heritage in kitchen cabinetry, it’s perhaps also unsurprising to find the company is strong in bathroom furniture sales. ”

We see that as an area of expertise. We understand fitting cabinetry. So we will have a focus around furniture and will be sourcing products to complement that”, explains Bucktrout.

Although he says the product offer is far from broken, currently providing around 20 brands, he will be seeking to add “a little bit of everything.”

But what is critically important – whether sanitaryware, tap or shower brand – they value our route to market and we will find that out in the course of discussions over the next 12 months.”

Stating that challenges around the business are maintaining gross margin, so products need to have a point of difference, he explains: “Where it’s not there, we will develop them ourselves.

“This is why we are investing in product managers in our own business and bringing products to market to enable our own business to grow.

“There are brands that are not in the UK that I’m sure see the size of the market attractive and we’re a great conduit.”

Building the proposition

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In fact, Bucktrout believes the line between distributors and manufacturers is increasingly blurred.

As he points out, since there is little manufacturing in the UK many subsidiaries bring in products from factories in their group.

“I firmly believe what we have got here is freedom – freedom to develop our own brand with the best possible partners, wherever they may be, and not shackled with ‘this is what we want you to market.

“And we also have the freedom to partner with brands that see real value in what we do, the channels we trade in and the audience.”

Appreciating distribution

JPD: Channel tunnelling 2

So do retailers now appreciate the role of a distributor or are they still seen as taking the profit out of the supply chain?

Bucktrout says retailers do see the benefits of working with a company which offers just in time supply, delivery direct to customers’ homes and a credit offer.

“I think it is why a lot of distributors have stayed purely in a retail channel because the retailer sees the value, the complexity of what we do, the size of the product offer, access to product and offering credit, as adding real value.”

And he believes this value can be extended to independent builders’ merchants too, stating it’s “a logical channel for ourselves to build on.”

It has seen Bucktrout build on the company’s existing skillset, employing commercial director Tony Barnes, who worked for the Spring Ram Corporation, and supply chain director Adrian Haigh, formerly of Wolseley.

Slowly and surely

But each of the opportunities bring complexity to the business and, of course, with service as its key priority, JP Distribution is keen for any added value offering to not affect this.

It’s why Bucktrout says the company will be making a tip-toe approach, as it has done historically, to both growing its portfolio and broadening its customer base.

Certainly, the once ‘under the radar’ distributor is now set to make a splash, having already exhibited for the first time at KBB Birmingham.

“The quiet approach hadn’t been a bad thing”, explains Bucktrout, concluding “but what I bring is a more dynamic approach to make it a little bit louder and hopefully grow the business a little bit quicker.”