Reviews from the Top

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The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on the developments of the past twelve months and the lessons which can be learnt from recent experiences.

As in previous years, IER asked the leading players in the electrical industry to review the performance of their companies in 2012 and the impact the market forces had on their operations. We also asked them to make some predictions of what’s to come in 2013.

SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

2012 was a monumental year for Samsung and our retail partners. Television screens got bigger, new installations were put in place and above all we re-emphasised the importance of in depth training with retail partners.

For the first time, as a reflection of our customers’ needs, we committed to specific audio training and unveiled the bespoke state-of-the-art audio training facility at Brentford. This new specialist ‘Sound Room’ was optimised by Sonata Acoustics and accredited by Dolby was a bespoke training space for our audio offering and reflected where as a business we felt training was required. This audio training was the latest addition to Samsung’s ongoing investment in retailers and to date, over 1,000 retail staff have been trained at the facility.

We also ran a TV training road show which gave independent store staff an introduction to the Smart TV products and technologies for 2012. This was so successful that it will be returning for 2013, dates and locations will soon be available via www.samsungrewards.co.uk. The success of this road show highlighted that independents are well aware of the need to have knowledgeable staff in place for consumers looking to make TV purchases as customers are demanding more ‘on the ground’ expertise. A great reflection of this high calibre of staff was our annual Samsung Sales Person of the Year competition, held in October, which is exclusive to independent retailers. Our 2012 winner was Dan Turner of Fortuna of Jersey who epitomised what we as a company look for in sales team members, bringing passion and knowledge to his role. Congratulations to Dan!

2012 also saw the opening of a stylish new retail shop in Selfridges, Oxford Street. The luxury space which is part of Samsung’s move to grow its premium shop-in-shop experiences, gives people the chance to explore Samsung’s premium range of products. This is an exciting addition to our retail space offering highlighting that retail continually has to adapt and change to reflect consumer needs.

As well as a move to a premium offering, last year brought with it a rising market demand for larger television screens. The launch of the 75-inch ES9000 LED Smart TV provided many independents with a new opportunity of custom install and premium sales. This will be further extended with the upcoming models announced at January’s CES, which will see Samsung expand the number of models available in 60 inches and above.

Having just returned from the CES, 2013 brings yet again another exciting year for Samsung and for consumer electronics. We wish you all the very best for the year ahead and look forward to what 2013 brings.

SONY 

Frederik Lange, Senior Category Marketing Manager for Digital Imaging Division at Sony UK outlines some of the photographic opportunities for retailers in 2013.

The continued improvements in the picture quality delivered by cameras at price points that are accessible to most consumers mean that there is plenty to be optimistic about for photographic retailers in 2013.

Photography is a creative outlet that many people enjoy and the opportunity for the retailer is not just around the initial sale – those customers that catch the bug and buy into interchangeable lens systems will keep coming back to make purchases of new lenses and accessories as they advance their skills.

It is crucial to help customers find the right camera for them as there are so many different options and the best way to achieve this is by talking to them and finding out what kind of pictures they are taking and what kind of pictures they want to be able to take. Sales staff can explain the advantages of carrying a compact camera and showing some of the functionality and results that can be achieved using one. If a customer is looking to improve the quality of their photography or even stepping up to higher quality video recording then it may be that an interchangeable lens camera, be that a compact system camera or something more akin to a traditional DSLR/SLT, is more suited to their needs. When explaining the differences between CSCs and DSLR / SLT models, it is important to discuss which kind of lenses and accessories will work best for them and this can help retailers deliver the best possible solution for the customer in addition to increasing the value of the overall transaction.

At Sony, we have been focussing on developing products that simply help consumers take the best possible pictures. Practically, this has involved using the best possible sensor technology in our products and combining them with processors that unlock their full potential. The size and quality of the sensor is crucial in enabling customers to take the best possible picture in all types of conditions, particularly in low light where it is often difficult to capture the shot you’re looking for. We are starting to see feedback from consumers that there are increasing levels of understanding about the importance of sensor technology when making a camera purchase rather than them making a judgement on the often misleading megapixels measurement. The quality of optics on an interchangeable lens camera has always been important and continues to be so and we are now seeing features like WiFi being integrated into cameras. All of this means that there is plenty to get excited about for consumers and retailers alike!

Independent Electrical Retailer

I am writing these words on the eve of the 2013 CES Show for which I will be leaving shortly. As every year, the world’s largest consumer electronics show will signpost future developments in the industry and provide us with a lot of food for thought. The advances of modern technology are now so fast that the products which were hailed as revolutionary one year become the standard the next. No doubt we will be thrilled and surprised with the latest product developments which constantly push further the realms of what’s possible. And we all know how much the industry needs to get customers excited (and spending!) again after four years of the recession!

These forefront developments will soon be translated into manufacturers’ offers and will appear in retailers’ stores. We, as trade press, will be only too pleased to report on them and help you to communicate them to the customer. As usual, we will speak to the leading manufacturers to get the details of the latest product developments and their significance and we will visit independents – to get their side of the story.

An important date in 2013, which I advise you to put in your diaries, is Wednesday, 19th June 2013. It is the day of the 21st IER Independent Business Awards which this year will be held in a new venue – the modern conference rooms of the Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire. The Awards this year will be accompanied by the IER Product Show at which exhibiting manufacturers will announce new product developments together with a variety of special offers for the dealers attending the event. Can you afford to miss such an opportunity?

In the months and weeks leading to the Awards we will be calling you – manufacturers and retailers – to send us your product and company nominations for the Awards. All the entries will be assessed by the Awards Judging Panel in the early March and then it’s over to you, the readers of IER, to decide what products are
the best and most innovative and which manufacturer supported you most and deserves the ultimate accolade of the Awards.

In the meantime, I would like to thank you all – the readers and partners of IER – for your continuous support in 2012 and wish you a successful and profitable 2013.

Retra

In 2012, retra celebrated its 70th anniversary, there is no doubt that the association is as important now, as it ever has been.

Over the past 70 years, retra has worked tirelessly on behalf of its members and reaching this milestone in its history is testament to the strength of the independent electrical retailer in the UK.

There is no doubt that 2012 was a torrid year for the industry; we said goodbye to some well known high street retailers, as the economic woes of the last few years continued to have an impact on high streets across the country.

In 2012, retra continued to fight on behalf of its members, the key campaign was our drive to stop the practice of selling electrical products below their cost price, which is commonly known as ‘loss leading’, this campaign will continue through 2013 and possibly beyond.

In 2012, retra also put the role of manufacturers under the spotlight on behalf of its members.

retra had received many calls from members regarding the role of manufacturers, when it came to selling direct to consumers. Manufacturers came under scrutiny from retra and its members, as more and more opt to sell direct to consumers.

Writing in retra’s Alert magazine, I asked ‘The Big Question’ – Should retra members support those manufacturers that sell their products and services online direct to consumers?

Manufacturers that I have spoken to recently on this subject have commented that their online price structures are more expensive than the average high street price, however, after investigating those comments we have found that there are indeed those manufacturers whose prices are higher, but there are a significant amount who are selling at discounted prices and/or are also offering additional benefits.

These benefits include free delivery, interest free credit, extended free warranties, with an added value of no additional cost for using a credit card to complete the transaction. There is also a significant non-tangible benefit that the consumer feels that he/she is dealing directly with the manufacturer and, therefore, is receiving a bespoke service, which in its self is a very strong sales/marketing message.”

A prominent retra member, who asked not to be named in Alert, asked why he should stock a particular brand, which is offering its entire product line-up for sale online.

“I have not invested in my store to have a manufacturer, that I have been loyal to over the years, stab me in the back by selling its complete range to the general public,” said the member.

retra continued to roll-out its new division, retra Install.

There are many members that currently offer installations and getting a nice business out of it. What we’ve done has been to approach installers that did not know much about retra and inform them of the business benefits and opportunities that we can offer.

retra’s 2013 New Year Resolutions are to continue to support members, through the help line, as well as continuing to search for exclusive additional member benefits that will help towards the bottom line.

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