ANALYSIS: Smart Home

Joined-up thinking


The smart home is the biggest opportunity our industry has ever had, but how can retailers get involved and make the most of it? We ask: what needs to happen next?

Come together

TechUK’s director of operations, Paul Hide, calls for our industry to unite so it can overcome the challenges of selling the smart home

You can’t ignore the smart home – it’s going to be an increasingly relevant part of the sector – but the challenge is how you address it. Our industry is still pretty fragmented.

There are voices within it, but it’s not cohesive – we’re losing an opportunity. As an industry, we come together to grow the pie and then, individually, we go away and fight for our share of it.

Paul Hide
Paul Hide

We still don’t have a common and cohesive platform for people to sell the smart home. Has this industry really come together to try and resolve that, argue the case, get agreement and get a platform that people can build on? No.

I see better examples of cohesion in other industries. If we believe in this industry and want to be part of it, there’s a benefit to everyone playing a bigger part – we have a role to play to be advocates and evangelists and try and reach out.

There will be casualties – it’s inevitable. All industries change and people drop out. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, but what we need is a critical mass on which to build our base. We know where we need to focus, but our challenge is, as an industry, how we come together and amplify our collective voice.

‘The turning point has come – there’s clearly a shift in mind set’

Distributor AWE recently teamed up with Retra and T21 to offer smart-home seminars for retailers. Stuart Tickle, managing director of AWE, and Retra chief executive Howard Saycell, explain why the turning point has finally arrived…

Stuart Tickle: Turning point is a good phrase. About five or six years ago, AWE recognised that retail needed to change – it had got stale. We put ourselves out there and contacted a whole load of retailers, some of whom were very proactive. We also went along to a buying group trade show and visited a lot of people and we got a very negative reaction, but we didn’t give up. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but the turning point has come. There’s clearly a shift in mind set for retailers.

Stuart Tickle
Stuart Tickle

We’ve spoken to Retra and training company T21 and we’ve identified that it’s proprietors that need to lead their business and make those decisions.

There’s a £1bn industry already here – there is around £1bn being done in the UK by 1,200 custom installers and they’re out there adding value in a way that you can’t buy online. They’re taking products and putting them together in a tried and tested way and making it easy for the consumer to control them. They’re dealing with brands you [retailers] already deal with and stock, but gluing them together with some clever stuff like URC (Universal Remote Control) and QMotion blinds. You need to get the knowledge and add some product lines – there are things that you can do right now.

Howard Saycell: The smart home is all about trust – I need someone that’s going to come into my home and explain to me and tell me what I need in this room, what I need in that room, how it will work and what I need to buy to do it. I’ve got to trust someone to walk through my door and I’m more likely to trust a local business that’s been around for 80 years than some Johnny-come-lately that I’ve never heard of. The smart home is a $35bn opportunity – if independents don’t ride the wave, then I’m very fearful.

‘The smart home revolution is something that all retailers need to get on board with’

We asked our panel of independent retailers at the Turning Point Summit – Jason Digwa (RGB), Paul Giles (Gerald Giles and Snellings) and Steve Scogings (Stellisons) their thoughts on the smart home

L to R: Steve Scogings, Paul Giles and Jason Digwa
L to R: Steve Scogings, Paul Giles and Jason Digwa

Jason Digwa: I think the smart home revolution is something that all retailers need to get on board with.

Paul Giles: The challenge for us is to turn the smart home tech into installation products – a lot of it is still reasonably low margin and it’s self-install. There is a market out there where you can do whole house installations for £30,000 to £50,000, but a lot of smart tech is about someone spending £2,000 to £4,000 on a TV and a few devices. We need to grow that area and get more revenue from it.

Steve Scogings: We have install teams on white goods and we’re training to do brown goods installs and the connected home – more and more white goods are becoming connected. We can be a one-stop shop for everything – appliances, brown goods and kitchen furniture. It’s definitely helping us to grow our business.