Change for the better

15 Jun, 17

Marketing manager of HPP Dan Mounsey explains how the role of the distributor has changed to offer added value to trade customers

The trading landscape for distributors in the KBB industry has changed significantly over the last 20 years, with the market going from a ‘product at a price’ mentality to, more recently, the role of the distributor becoming more about adding value and support to trade customers and their consumers.

With innovations in materials, design, engineering of components, room sets, decors and finishes coming into play daily, some might think it would be hard for the distributor to maintain their service offering, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over the last five to 10  years, customer demands have changed significantly as a response to shifting consumer needs, buying habits, demands, and expectations. Some players within the industry initially viewed this shift as an issue, seeing it as something that would reduce margins, increase staff workloads and force distributors down an unprofitable path. However, in reality, this was far from being the case. We’ve seen some amazing changes within the industry since these customer needs became apparent. Many have helped to shift and shape distributors’ offers for the better, creating more variety, choice, and innovation within our industry. We’re now seeing specialist distributors pop up within the market that serve very specific trade needs. These play a huge and vital role within the industry, helping to serve the needs of consumers and trade customers alike, with a comprehensive and tailored service. The picture of larger distributors has changed significantly too.

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Consumer marketing

Marketing support and added value is very high on the agenda for most key players within the KBB market, with new consumer-facing marketing materials becoming more commonplace in an attempt to support trade customers selling to the end user. This has become a vital strategic element, and a successful part of the sales process. The introduction of quality marketing support allows trade customers to show all of one supplier’s products in a single place, in a format that is highly consumer-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

The increase in sales for both trade customers and distributors, alike, have seen significant rises since the introduction of this type of marketing support. It shows that it is actually a very positive aspect of our changing industry. But doing just the front-end marketing isn’t enough either. To really provide a fully polished service, the actual manufacturing and delivery angle needs to be well covered too.

Ramping production

The industry has seen a huge spike in demand over the last six to 12 months, and most manufacturers and distributors are ramping up their production efforts in an attempt to keep up with consumer demand. This is not without its challenges when it comes to quality, turnaround times and delivery. The key to keeping this area flowing freely all comes down to good planning, systems integrations, and delivery mechanisms.

Those distributors and manufacturers who are investing time and money in online systems, automated processes and more automated, intelligent and leaner manufacturing processes are the ones who are really benefiting at this moment in time. The scalability of the organisation becomes a much easier task to manage as order quantities and values ramp up in-line with market demand.

By investing heavily in marketing, systems, and procedures, the industry will continue to take huge leaps forward, encouraging more confidence within the trade, which will be represented likewise in demand from the consumer market too. Distributors are raising the bar significantly at present, keeping up with the pace of change happening almost on a weekly basis within the industry.