Andy Douglas, MD at Timeguard, explains the crucial role that wholesalers have played in helping the electrical industry to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, and why they now deserve your future loyalty.
Now we’re emerging in to our new Covid-secure world, there’s time to reflect on the heroes and villains of the pandemic.
It’s been mostly heroes in our industry, but one demographic I’d really like to raise a cheer for is the wholesalers.
Caught in the middle, they’ve had to work around manufacturers and problems with getting the goods to them on the one hand, and an overnight revolution in the way they do business with their customers on the other – not to mention the big hit to the bottom line that we’re all having to manage this year.
I’ve watched in admiration as people I’ve been dealing with for decades have turned their wholesale businesses inside out to keep the supply chain open for installers; enabling them to get back to work as quickly as practicable as/when lockdown was lifted.
Wholesalers had already proved their flexibility over recent years as your expectations as installers have changed, but during the crisis we saw them bending over backwards with pre-arranged collection slots, deliveries, and collections. Many have arranged webinars during lockdown, helping installers to understand product ranges better.
No doubt we’ll all enjoy getting back to the banter and camaraderie of the trade counter, where the encyclopaedic knowledge of the counter staff never ceases to amaze; but we’re all internet users now as well. Wholesalers invest in building-up and maintaining comprehensive websites that have been improving, making it much easier for you to browse their stock at times to suit you, cross referring to manufacturers’ sites as needed.
They’re also backing their customers with flexible account terms and added value services such as facilities to reserve goods for major jobs and call them off as needed – a massive help for the cash flow of SME electrical businesses.
Instant availability of ranges that are just not available to retail customers both in-store or online, are another bonus – and don’t underestimate how much money wholesalers have to tie-in to having stock ready for you ‘off the shelf’ or the business acumen that goes into forecasting what stock to hold. These are the products that enable you to differentiate yourself by broadening your offer with higher quality, better looking products and an improved end result.
Wholesalers are still the gateway to future technology for many installers. They’re willing to invest in new, higher-value and added-value products for you as you adapt to the changing marketplace. I can tell you from sitting on the other side of the fence that, even in this crisis, that investment was still their business model – all the while driving a hard bargain to keep prices down for you.
Timeguard decided long ago to focus on our forte of original, professional products and supply them through our wholesaler partners: we’ve never regretted it. Forward-thinking professional installers – the ones who see the business benefits in going the extra mile for their customers and are open to new ideas – typically have great working relationships with those wholesalers.
Let’s not sugar coat things, though. We know there are tough and uncertain economic times ahead, and if there’s one thing that’s going to help us all, it’s the synergy between professional installers, stockists, and producers of quality products.
If the wholesalers had not held the line in the spring and summer, we’d all be looking at a much bleaker winter.