Electrical retailing: Why do we do it?

Retailers need to change what they do to better suit the modern consumer and to make sure they get the support they need from manufacturers, says Purewell operations manager Ed Griffiths

Working in electrical retail – why do we do it? Is it the reverence with which our customers see us? The wonderfully balanced Consumer Rights Act? The charming conversations we have about internet pricing?

For me, the beauty of our industry is the constant need to evolve and to be looking to the future. It’s no secret that our industry has been impacted by the internet more than most, with margin erosion and improved logistics a constant challenge. So how do we survive and, more importantly, thrive?

First of all is what us independents are built on – service. I believe that customers will still put a value on good service, albeit a far smaller one than before. And so the onus is on us to show why we should be the first port of call on the customer journey, and not the any port in a storm ‘I’ve been let down by…’ that I am sure you have all experienced.

Adjusted

To ensure that we are viewed as the go-to place by our customers, we have adjusted our delivery options. This allows a fuller choice for all customers, as well has offering delivery services that the nationals do not, such as same-day. We are fortunate that CIH deliveries have been expanded to three a week, which has allowed us to reduce our stockholding, while still fulfilling orders within an acceptable time scale – seemingly now a maximum of three days!

The in-store experience of our customers has been looked at, and we have a very engaging and open sales team, who know their products and, more importantly, how to sell. We had previously been a bit blinkered and would tend to employ people with industry experience. However, we have recently seen that the right person can quite quickly pick up the knowledge – it is the right attitude that is harder to find.

Mocha Turtle coffee shop concession at Purewell
Mocha Turtle coffee shop concession at Purewell

The way we work with manufacturers is changing – and it needs to. Us retailers need to realise that this is a two-way street, and the relationship must be mutually beneficial. It serves no gain to just pick the phone up and complain every time there is a pricing issue with one of the multiples, or stock availability is an issue, if you are not doing everything in your power to ensure that the relationship works.

I feel for the reps that come to our CIH group meetings and get lambasted month in, month out – they are spread thin and their role is not easy. If we have an issue and we are able to show what we have done with their brand recently to promote it, then we are far more likely to get the assistance we are after. Despite the common belief to the contrary, manufacturers do not have bottomless pits of cash to support dealers, and so it follows that they will help those that help them.

It is great to see the change in approach from the likes of Rangemaster, launching a premium indie-exclusive range to try to help our category. However, this will only work if people support it. We are delighted to be ranging the new Encore Deluxe and will always look to work with a manufacturer that is trying to help in the face of an increasingly difficult industry.

As technology evolves, so must we. I think that the connected home is a great opportunity for us retailers, albeit not yet with appliances. With this in mind, we are investing in creating a Smart Theatre to demonstrate the latest tech, as well as putting ourselves on the map, so that when this becomes more commonplace, we are not left at the bottom of the pile. We are working closely with developers to implement smart-home capability at build stage. There is more money in putting cabling round a house than there often is in a 65in TV, so it seems mad not to follow the money, as well as likely safeguarding future appliance deals.

Concessions

Eighteen months ago, we agreed a concession deal with a local coffee shop, Mocha Turtle. Since then, we have added two further concessions, dealing with flooring and bathrooms. We are changing our business to become a provider of an “all-under-one-roof” solution to those improving their homes. This is enhancing our footfall, as well as helping the average transaction value in-store, as we see more people coming in for multiple appliances.

Now is the time for all retailers to take an outsider’s view as to what they are offering, and see if that fits into the modern way people shop. We have done so and it has taken a lot of work to change the way we had been approaching retailing – but we are seeing the benefit.