Atosa UK’s recently-arrived national sales manager Lee Donkin is very realistic about the catering equipment brand’s reputation since it arrived on these shores 5 years ago, saying: “The Atosa brand has always been perceived as low entry level, even though we also have medium and heavy duty equipment. We are highly innovative so we want to make sure we now shout about this to the industry.”
One of the ways the Chinese-headquartered company is demonstrating its intentions is introducing its Green range of refrigeration equipment.
According to Donkin: “In the refrigeration sector there is something missing in the middle of the market, and dealers notice that as well. Our new Green refrigeration range is finding that gap; it is a quality product and uses hydrocarbon gas.
“We have changed some of the internal units, including stainless steel edging inside the chambers to ensure good air flow and reduce condensation. We’ve looked into not only how to improve the energy efficiency of the product, but also improving the product itself.” In the near future the company will also be launching an entirely new product range, blast chillers.
The big move however will be to introduce an entry level brand at the beginning of next year, which Donkin believes will benefit the company’s entire portfolio. “Our heavy duty equipment reputation will automatically be enhanced. We are perceived as lower end because of price, not because of the quality of our products. The quality of our product is fantastic for the price that dealers are paying, better than our comparable competition.”
The firm has historically benefitted from promotional offers, whereby it can monitor the return on investment directly. “This year, promotions which involved combining purchases from several different product sectors have worked well,” revealed Donkin. “Another of our unique selling points is we can offer free marketing to our dealer network, creating promotional literature for them to then send onto end users.”
Now it wants to increase its market presence and dealer business. Currently its route to market comprises 118 live accounts and another channel through Blue Badger Wholesale, which is also a member of the Cedabond buying consortium.
Donkin is particularly looking to target more design houses within the distributor mix and believes that the manufacturer’s clear discount structure means that every dealer knows where they stand. “It’s based on potential business, and we now have dealer agreements for all our customers. They know that if they don’t spend as agreed, we’ll have to reduce their discount.”
He has helped to put measures into place this year which have already drastically improved sales figures, including further subdividing the central region and employing two new area sales managers for the Midlands and the North. He is also hoping to add another to this number to cover his current South West region, which will free him up to target more national accounts.
“I went out and talked to a lot of dealers and the feedback was that poor product availability was our biggest problem last year,” detailed Donkin. “So we’ve now put that right – we have got a new ordering system which allows us to order weekly. We’ve looked at previous sales and for the first time built that into forecasted sales. We now hold a minimum of 3 months’ stock.”
Another request was that the UK branch needed someone technical on site, so the firm reacted by employing Stuart Nesbitt as technical service manager in July. Donkin reported: “This has gone down extremely well with dealers and they are already talking to him about the technical side of our products.”
Nesbitt also looks after parts supply for the firm, which will become increasingly important given that in excess of 100,000 Atosa units have entered the marketplace since it opened in this country in 2013.
The manufacturer’s top 10 dealer spends are all up since Donkin joined the company from Hobart in January, with one increasing its business by an incredible 2,800%. From last year’s turnover of £1.3m, Atosa has already reached the £1.1m mark in 2017 and is aiming for £2m by the end of the year, with further ambitious targets set for the coming years.
Long range strategy is very much on the agenda at the manufacturer as it now has 1, 3 and 5 year plans, as well as working on looking a whole decade ahead. Donkin emphasised the benefits of utilising all employees’ input for these developments: “We like to incorporate everyone’s ideas here. You don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, you want them to come in and tell you what to do.”
The Chinese headquarters turns over $300m currently and has now partially floated on the Shanghai Composite Index, with 16% of shares sold on the stock market, which UK MD Alan Cheng estimates will earn £1.3bn in the first 6 months. “Effectively we can gather £100m of cash straightaway,” he commented.
The head office backing extends to allowing the UK branch to be fairly autonomous. “We are very flexible because we are still an independent company and not part of a huge organisation where we are being told what to do,” believes Donkin. “Any changes we want to make go via Alan and we make them as long as it’s a viable business decision.”
One of these changes is that Atosa UK is in the process of moving to new premises nearby its current base in Northampton. “The warehouse floor space is the same, but its roof is taller, which will allow us to stack three or four high, creating about 25% extra space,” said Donkin. The new office space will be much bigger too, and will feature a new showroom which Atosa hopes dealers can use to host meetings.
It is also becoming a member of CESA, which Donkin believes will open up more opportunities for dealer business. The manufacturer will futher look to engage the industry with bright new visual stands at the upcoming Restaurant Show, Host and Hotelympia 2018 exhibitions. Donkin concluded: “Our dealers are going to know everything we’ll be doing. It’s a really exciting time for the business.”