Resident kbbreview columnist and Glasow-based bathroom retailer Derek Miller proposes some New Year’s resolutions for the bathroom industry
As I gasp at my latest credit card statement and look down upon the bulging Miller waistline, I am reminded that Christmas was its usual combination of indulgence, overspending and time away from the business.
Time, perhaps, to reflect upon the year just finished and the one now beginning. As my family anticipated, my youngest son asked me whether I was planning to commit myself to any New Year’s resolutions, and if so, whether these would be sustained past the first week in January, unlike previous years?
Having satisfied him with a commitment to stop eating chocolate and be more charitable, my thoughts turned to New Year’s resolutions for the bathroom industry. What promises, if any, should manufacturers, distributors and retailers in our sector be making?
Here is my wish list:
There are a few changes to behaviour that would make you better all-rounders. Your first resolution should be to encourage and equip your reps to be business managers and traders rather than the box-tickers that many are being encouraged to become. This obviously does not apply to all suppliers, as the better ones among you treat your staff like grown-ups.
For those of you, however, who rigidly fix the number of calls required by your reps, and fit trackers to their cars to ensure an Orwellian adherence to the programme, I say ‘shame on you’. If you treat people like monkeys, they will act like monkeys in return. You must also accept that your sales staff operate in a shrinking market and that business development opportunities are now thinner on the ground than in times past, so patience is required. The level of staff turnover of reps and sales managers is undoubtedly increasing, and much of it is rooted in changes to approach such as those listed above.
I also ask manufacturers to make 2013 the year that you don’t discontinue half your range with the scantest regard for the retailers that have to change their displays at their cost. To reps I say: “Old school is good!” Know your products, turn up on time for appointments, preferably without stubble and spiky hair (male and female!) and help us to sell your products.
It’s fair to say that you chaps have had a pretty torrid time throughout the recession and the best among your ranks made successful resolutions a few years back. These were intelligent decisions to diversify, control your margin and take charge of your own destiny. I take my hat off to firms such as Barwick and Farmiloe, which have all adapted to the new world order.
However, I beseech all distributors to keep stock of the brands you supply. Remember that six to eight weeks is too long for retailers to have to wait for all but the most specialist items. Your resolution, therefore, should be to have products on the shelf or at most on a two to three week lead time, and work only with those ranges where this is a realistic goal.
Those of us at the frontline of the bathroom industry have been feeling a bit sorry for ourselves for the past few years. We have become very unhappy over a number of issues, most notably the effects upon our showrooms of online discounting, and the decreasing levels of exclusivity on key brands.
However, let us look at the bigger picture here and leave those political hot potatoes for another day.
The best resolution I can think of for retailers is to remember that we need our suppliers as much as they need us. Unless we are delivering colossal business for a manufacturer, we really can’t call the shots and lose the plot each time they do something that doesn’t appeal.
2012 was a tough year and 2013 may well be as challenging. Until our industry thins out and the economy starzts to improve, growth will be stop-start. Indeed, the really good times may never come back and we may have to get used to the level of business that is now available.
However, the biggest resolution for all of us must be to rebuild some of the relationships that have suffered due to the pressures of recession. A partnership approach, where we are all in it together, will help us survive the tough times and make the best of what we’ve got, until things improve.
I, for one, fully intend to stick rigidly to my resolutions this year…Now, where is that final tin of Quality Street?
Happy New Year!
Derek Miller runs Scope Bathrooms in Glasgow. Established in 1999, Scope has become one of Scotland’s leading bathroom companies in both the Retail and Contract sectors. Scope is proud to have provided many of the UK’s finest hotels and best known housebuilders with quality bathroom specifications and has designed and supplied countless bathrooms and shower rooms for private residential clients.