Although times are testing, it just won’t do to be despondent about our industry. With interest rates at record low, there are still many customers out there with money to spend. Yes, they may be more careful and less likely to buy on impulse, but they will target their purchases on the best products – the ones that match their specific needs. We all know that footfall is down but I believe this actually creates an opportunity.
At PRC, we’re seeing more serious customers who are ‘out and about’ and looking to buy. If we now have more time to look after them properly, they’re much more likely to reach for their money and make that purchase.
I’m in no doubt that there is a vital place for the electrical specialist. There’s a key segment of affluent customers out there who welcome real personal service and specialist product knowledge. They’re simply not going to find that in the supermarkets or on the internet and, if we can help them, they’ll help us through word of mouth recommendations and their repeat business.
Furthermore, having visited the CES Show in Vegas earlier this year and supplier trade shows closer to home, I’m excited and somewhat relieved about the fantastic products we can look forward to selling later this year. I’m expecting them to give our sector a real boost just when we need it most.
But the success of these new products and technologies depends heavily upon the in-store execution and the theatre-like demonstrations that we specialist independents can offer. Our staff must be fully conversant with all the sell-up features and provide slick demonstrations to influence a purchase. We’ve got to get the attention to detail right to create the best possible customer environment. Convergence is the way forward and we must confidently demonstrate this connectivity message in store.
Here at PRC, we installed LAN and high-speed wireless connections throughout the store. With all compatible TVs on display connected, we’re ready to show that Smart TV is the future. And with LOVEFiLM recently announcing that their members streamed more films and TV series over the internet than rented DVDs, Blu-rays and games, it’s clear that customer demand is going through radical change.
As margins reduce in the TV market, we’ve encouraged and incentivised staff to sell add-on audio solutions like sound bars, home cinema separates, all-in one home theatre packages etc. We focus on award-winning specialist premium brands like Bose, Yamaha, Onkyo, KEF, Mission and Sonos. By doing so, we’re able to capitalise on levels of customer devotion that drive repeat demand. With such brands, there’s a genuine hunger for the follow on products.
Last year, we moved into selling white goods where margins aren’t being eroded as much as elsewhere. They’re classic distress purchases – people want the products and they want them now. If you can offer quick delivery and installation, and you’ve got the stock, then you’re on to a winner.
We’ve also built up our IT offer – not a traditional area for independents with its fast turnaround of products and tight margins. Again, we focus on key selected brands like Samsung and Sony Vaio. It’s a growth area and one where we can also cross-sell higher margin accessories like speakers, headphones, bags, cases and software.
With pressure on everyone’s budget, you can’t expect business to come to you. That’s why we’re proactive in our marketing and continually invest to make it work. We use all sorts of media, from billboards to display advertising on the London Underground, also promoting exclusive in-store offers. Winning the prestigious IER Best Large Independent CE Retailer award last year was a fantastic achievement for our business and we publicised this award throughout all our marketing which swayed consumers to choose us. As a result of our marketing we attract customers from far and wide, as our tracking shows. The champagne evenings we host to launch and demonstrate products really drive our quality sales. It’s all about raising the profile of the fantastic technologies we sell and creating a wow factor for those customers who are not solely driven by price.
I never underestimate the challenge of being a successful independent electrical retailer. However, it can be done when you understand what your customers want and deliver it to them with style and sophistication.