The industry’s best performers

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The Independent Business Awards 2011 were held at the Forest of Arden Hotel, Warwickshire, on 23 June 2011. The winners of this year’s Awards, organised annually by the Independent Electrical Retailer and voted for by the independent  retailers – the readers of the IER magazine, collected 22 awards in 10 categories.

The Awards are in their nineteenth year and they have the longest heritage of any awards in the electrical industry. Over the years they have become a highly regarded declaration of business excellence. The Independent Business Awards are also unique – they are the only awards programme in which the achievements of electrical product manufacturers are determined by independent retailers – the readers of the IER magazine.

In the current recessionary climate the Awards have a particular significance. The list of nominations for the 2011 Awards clearly demonstrates that even in tough market conditions the electrical industry hasn’t stopped innovating and it continues to offer consumers the latest technology and benefits while at the same time reducing the consumption of scarce environmental resources.

The current market situation has also proved the importance of the independent retailers whose product knowledge and high levels of service are essential to demonstrate and communicate to the consumers the latest product innovations and manufacturers’ brand values.

This event could not have been staged, however, without the participation and generous support of a host of sponsors: Amdea, Astra, DAD, Domestic & General, Haier, Neff, retra, Samsung, ShopJimmy, Sony and Whirlpool. They have helped the IER event team to create a memorable night of celebration, leading to the 2012 awards programme which will mark the 20th anniversary of the Awards.

Since three years ago, the Independent Business Awards have celebrated the professional achievements of the independent retail sector.

Introducing the Best Independent Retailer award category, IER editor Anna Ryland said: “At a time when the industry is battling with high inflation, squeezed household budgets, weak wage growth and public spending cuts – in addition to the inroads from supermarkets and the internet – the independent channel needs a helping hand from its trading partners. It is therefore crucial that manufacturers maintain special trading terms and distribution policies for their independent dealers and provide them with training. This is the only way to maintain “the independent channel with its heart and its skills” as Steve Norman, retra president, said, opening this year’s annual retra conference.

“Independents – as no one else in the industry – know how to add value to the electrical products and engage consumer interest in the leading brands.

“Over the last 12 months, I visited the 2010 winners of the Best Independent Retailer Awards and they greatly impressed me not only with their business acumen and market expertise, but also the first-hand knowledge of their customers which is key for securing and keeping their – and manufacturers’ – business.”

From a GfK perspective

The Independent Business Awards evening would be incomplete without an overview of the state of the electrical market. In his customary and memorable style, Nigel Catlow, business group director at GfK, described the business opportunities that exist for retailers and manufactures. In the current market situation this was not an easy task, but Mr Catlow gave the audience some encouragement to think positively about the future.

He pointed out that although the European CE market delivered a sales value decline of 4.5% during the first half of 2011, the domestic appliance category grew by 2.6%, together with mobile phones (up 2.1%) and the IT sector (up 1.8%). This is indicative of the modern patterns in media consumption and communications.

In the UK TV sector, real sales opportunities exist in the very large TV panel category (43in plus) and this situation is due to the saturation of flat panel TV ownership in Britain. In 2010, 26 million British households bought around 46 million TV sets, bringing the household saturation with this product to 105%. By comparison, in Germany’s 40 million households the TV ownership saturation is only 70%. Also the TV saturation in Russia is only 21%.

Meanwhile the recovering white goods market offers good prospects for the independent sector that hold a larger than market average share in laundry products, dishwashers, freezers and freestanding cooking. Also the indies’ share of tumble driers, cooling and built-in hobs increased by 2% during the last 12 months until May 2011, while their share of freezers grew by 3%. In general, growth opportunities for the channel lie in the premium product sectors, such as no-frost combis, A+ rated combis, pyrolytic ovens and induction hobs.

Finally, Nigel reminded the audience of the increasing role the internet plays in the purchasing process of consumer electronics and domestic appliances – either as a research mechanism or a buying channel. Online accounts for almost 18% of CE sales (by value), 20% of DA sales and 12% of SKA sales, but already 26% of photo products.

The Winners of the IBA 2011 received awards in the following categories:

Best Independent Retailer Awards

This category of the Awards, granted to independent retailers with a turnover below £1.5m (small independents) or with a turnover above £1.5m (large independents), honours their professional skills and expertise (product knowledge, customer service, product displays, local promotion and business management), as recognized by electrical manufacturers and fellow retailers. 

Best Large Independent – Consumer Electronics

Sponsored by Sony

Highly Commended was:

Hutchinsons

Winner:

PRC Hi-Fi & Video

Best Small Independent – Consumer Electronics

Sponsored by Sony

Highly Commended was:

Moss of Bath

Winner:

Tavistock Sound and Vision

Best Large Independent – Domestic Appliances

Sponsored by Neff

Highly Commended was:

A3 Appliances

Winner:

Blaines

Best Small Independent – Domestic Appliances

Sponsored by Neff

Highly Commended:

BAC of Beckenham

Winner:

DES Home Appliance & Fire Centre

Best Large Independent – Consumer Electronics/ Domestic Appliances

Sponsored by Samsung

Highly Commended was:

Stellison Ltd

Winner:

RGB Hi-Fi & Video Ltd

Best Small Independent – Consumer Electronics/ Domestic Appliances

Sponsored by Samsung

Highly Commended was:

Lutterworth

Winner:

Simply Electricals

Best Customer Service Award

Sponsored by D&G

Highly Commended was:

Purewell Electrical Co Ltd.

Winner:

Moss of Bath

Best Regional Multiple Retailer

Sponsored by IER

Highly Commended was:

Richer Sounds

Winner:

Hughes Electrical

BEST ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

This category of awards is presented in recognition of exceptional creativity and promotional might of the media campaigns that support sales activities of the industry. In the extremely tough market conditions, when customers are very reluctant to spend, advertising campaigns had to be even more original and inspiring.

Consumer Electronics

The finalists were: Freesat campaign, Panasonic Viera 3D campaign and Sony World Cup trade-in scheme.

Winner:

Freesat campaign

Domestic Appliances

The finalists were: GDHA Made in Britain campaign, Hotpoint Vital Ingredient Cooking campaign, Neff Writing Kitchen History campaign, and Tefal Easter digital marketing campaign. 

Winner:

GDHA Made In Britain campaign

TECHNICAL INNOVATION 

This category always receives the largest number of nominations.

This reflects the innovative nature of the industry and the immense investment made by electrical manufacturers in product development, research and design. 

Consumer Electronics

The finalists were: Humax Electronics HDR-FOX T2 – Freeview+ HD Digital television recorder, Panasonic TX P65VT20 3D Plasma TV, PURE Contour, Panasonic HDC camera, Roberts Colourstream, Roberts Stream 63i, Samsung Smart TV, Samsung WB650 camera  and Sony 3D TV.        

Winner:    

Samsung Smart TV

Domestic Appliances

The finalists were: AEG Maxisense TFT induction hob, AEG Proclean dishwasher, Belling BI80i Eco induction oven, Bosch  Exxcel Aquastar dishwasher, De Dietrich DHD9002X 120cm downdraft extractor, Gorenje The Karim Rashid BO87KR built-in single oven, Maytag MDW 606 AWG dishwasher, Neff Flex induction hob T44T43, Siemens Zeolith dishwasher, Siemens washer dryer WD14H520GB and Whirlpool iXelium gas hob with special coating.                                          

Winner:

Bosch Exxcel Aquastar dishwasher

Small Domestic Appliances

The finalists were: Bosch TDS3540GB Premier Protect Design steam generator,  Bosch TWK8633GB Styline kettle, Kenwood Triblade hand blender and Tefal Family ActiFry.    

Winner:

Bosch TDS3540GB Premier Protect Design steam generator

ECO/ ENERGY SAVING

This is a fast growing category of the Awards. It reflects the electrical industry’s commitment to reducing energy consumption and to environmentally responsible manufacturing.

Consumer Electronics

The finalists were: PURE Twilight, Roberts The Ecologic 7, Roberts The Revival DAB, Sony VAIO laptop and Sony BRAVIA TV with energy sensor.

Winner:

Roberts The Ecologic 7

Domestic Appliances

The finalists were: AEG Maxiklasse oven, Beko A+++ multifunction oven – OIM25502X, Belling FSE60DOi oven with induction, Bosch Logixx 7 washer dryer, Elica Verdi energy efficient hood, Hotpoint Eco Cycles/Eco Wash Function, Miele Eco Feedback W1945 washing machine, Samsung Ecobubble washing machine, Siemens i-Dos washing machine WM14S890GB and Whirlpool ART 262A+ built-in refrigerator.    

Winner:

Elica Verdi Energy efficient hood

BEST TRAINING AWARD

Training is key to the success of both the retailer, who receives it, and the manufacturer, who provides it. Investment in retail training has always been the best test of manufacturers’ commitment to the independent channel. This has never been more true than in the recession. The finalists in this category have clearly demonstrated this commitment.

Consumer Electronics

The finalists were: Freesat The Retail Support Team and Sony The Training Team.

Winner:

Freesat Retail Support Team

Domestic Appliances

The finalists were: De Dietrich Training Team, Indesit Company Training Team, Neff Learning Centre and Whirlpool Training Team.

Winner:

Neff Learning Centre

BEST ACCESSORY 

Accessories often provide retailers with higher margins than the products they support. Also, their average value has increased dramatically over the last five years.  And yet they are ‘the biggest missed opportunity’ in our industry. The list of finalists in this category showed where these opportunities are.

The finalists were: AEG Fusion Induction Wok, Alphason furniture for Sony Bravia Monolithic range, Peerless AV cables & interconnects, Off The Wall Skyline TV furniture and Vogel’s THIN SERIES range of ultra thin wall mounts.

Winner:

Vogel’s THIN SERIES range of ultra thin wall mounts

BEST FLOORCARE PRODUCT

The variety of new product developments addressing every need of the family and its pets indicates that the floorcare category is experiencing a revival. The value is also returning to this market as consumers look for reassurance of product quality from the leading brands. Powerful yet eco-friendly cleaners with a variety of intelligent features reflect the fast march of floorcare into the 21st century.

The finalists were: AEG The Nimble upright cleaner, AEG The Ultra One vacuum cleaner, Panasonic The Eco-Max vacuum cleaner, Rowenta The AIR FORCE vacuum cleaner, Samsung The Navibot and Sebo The Airbelt D cylinders.

Winner:

Panasonic The Eco-Max vacuum cleaner

SPECIAL REPRESENTATION AWARD

For this award, sponsored by retra, independent retailers nominate the manufacturers’ sales representatives on whose help and advice they can always depend. This category always produces a list of independents’ firm favourites.

Winner:

Rob Whittaker – Samsung

ULTIMATE TOP SUPPLIER

This is the ultimate accolade of the Independent Business Awards. Voting for this award, independent electrical retailers indicate which company provides them with the best service and supports them most effectively. To a large extent this award is a combination of all other awards and the voting produces a number of very strong contenders. 

Winner:

Samsung

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

With this very special award, this year sponsored by Haier, the electrical industry shows its appreciation of someone’s lifetime contribution to its efforts and of their support for the independent sector.

Winner:

Steve Dowdle, Sony

Steve Dowdle began his professional career at the age of 17 as a trainee salesman at Harrods. After changing his mind about a career in sales, he applied for the post of trainee buyer at the electrical retail chain Rumbelows – at first on the white goods side. In 1984, at the age of 26, he was offered the post of product buyer in the hi-fi sector with Sony where he started fast ascending the career ladder. In 1986, he became Group Audio Manager, and by 1989 he was appointed General Manager of National Account Sales. By 1991, he was already Divisional Director of Quality Management and Customer Service.

In 1995, he became Sales & Marketing Director, Consumer AV Products, and in November 2000 he was appointed Managing Director of UK Sales. In July 2007, he became Managing Director for Sony UK.

Throughout his career he has been a staunch supporter of retra and the independent channel. Creating a number of dealer membership schemes he has been instrumental in the success (and survival) of many independents.

He has always been passionate about people. His desire to “get to know his customers better than they know themselves” has inspired many marketing and customer-facing projects. He has been responsible for a number of major initiatives whose objective was to sponsor, develop and reward talent, and to release people’s potential.

His colleagues and business associates remarked that, like all true leaders, he has always looked at the ‘bigger picture’. Rather than competing ‘head on’ with his brand’s direct rivals, he realised early on that the electrical industry had to compete with other sectors, such as leisure and DIY.

He has always been a very vocal supporter of West Ham United FC team, Since he was a boy, he has often been seen on the terraces at Upton Park offering advice to a succession of managers, who to his dismay, and at their peril, chose to ignore it. He also has a passion for golf – but it is an unrequited love, as golf doesn’t have a passion for him. He is still learning the game.

He is well known as a champion of the consumer electronics industry and the electrical independent. Most recently he fought at every opportunity for the trade credit insurance.

Supporting EEIBA

As in the previous years the Awards organisers have chosen the Electrical and Electronics Industry Benevolent Association (EEIBA) as the charity benefitting from the support of the event participants and sponsors. EEIBA helps the needy and distressed who work, or have worked, in the electrical and electronics industries.

The manufacturers very generously supported the EEIBA raffle with a variety of attractive prizes which helped to generate an impressive sum of £ 2,025.

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