South Wales Euronics retailer, AF Thomas Electricals, has closed its flagship out-of-town superstore in Newport and its smaller Abergavenny store due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following on from part one yesterday, here, Owner and Managing Director, Andrew Thomas, explains how he is coping and outlines some of the benefits of being a member of Euronics.
AF Thomas joined Combined Independents (Holdings) Ltd (CIH), the electrical buying group part of Euronics, in 2002.
The group is offering ongoing support to its members during the COVID-19 lockdown by providing a well-stocked warehouse, twice-weekly deliveries and regular two-way communication with its suppliers.
“With its own warehousing, Euronics has always been very good at offering that – some of the other buying groups don’t offer that warehousing and delivery service. In normal circumstances, I can get very good prices on products that are delivered to me three days a week.”
He adds: “I’m also supported by an insured credit limit that gives me stability. When I wasn’t a member of Euronics, I had to rely on my relationships with the different suppliers and, if they didn’t like you, that was it – they might not give you credit, or they would only offer you a small limit. With the umbrella of Euronics, you’re covered, and it makes you more viable.”
AF Thomas has recently adopted the new Euronics branding for its stores and website.
Says Mr Thomas: “We find that our shop and website branding being matched to that of national Euronics campaigns, such as TV advertising, as well as press and sporting events, is extremely beneficial.”
He adds: “Recently we have had people in the shop commenting that they had seen us on the TV or at the rugby and, especially, during the cricket. We can’t achieve this kind of coverage locally, so we think it is a win-win to tap into this national advertising strategy.”
Looking ahead, Mr Thomas has plans to develop the commercial side of the business, including contract work.
“You can’t just rely on what walks through the door – all business like ours should have some level of contract work. Our balance isn’t right – we’re 95 per cent retail and five per cent contract. I have identified that as a weakness – we should have more contract business.”
“We already have relationships with a local housing authority that gives us a lot of work, as well as estate agents and private landlords. It’s these kinds of things that puts money in the till when you’re not so busy. I’m constantly looking for those kinds of opportunities, as well as doing marketing to try and pull people into the shop.
“We don’t use traditional marketing methods – local newspaper advertising is dead, as no one reads it. We do a lot on social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and we use Mailchimp for emailing promotions to our customer database.”
AF Thomas is also developing an eBay web store: “It’s all about having as many strings to your bow as you can.”
“We’ve embraced the smart home a big opportunities – we have displays of Sonos, Wiz lighting and the Ring doorbell in-store,” says Mr Thomas. “Everyone keeps going on about the smart home, but I don’t see our customers engaging with it. Maybe it’s because of the area that we’re trading it – it could be more of a big city thing.”
So what’s it like being an independent retailer in Newport?
“It’s tough – there’s a population of around 185,000, which is quite a lot of people. It’s not an affluent part of South Wales, like Abergavenny, but this is the card I’ve been dealt – my grandfather started the business off the back of being a dockworker,” Mr Thomas explains. “In the ‘30s and ‘40s, the docks were the lifeline for the city, but 80 years later, that part of the city is now a slum. Things change.”
Does he ever lie awake at night wishing he’d been a rock ‘n’ roll star instead?
“Yes – I still like to play, but the days of trying to make it are gone for me. I’ve been drumming in a covers band.”
“As a drummer, you never stop tapping – it’s either your feet, or your hands or both. If my wife could see me, she would roll her eyes!”