Over the past few months there has been quite a worrying trend of well-known distributors shutting their doors – particularly in the East Anglian region.
Broadland Catering Equipment ceased trading in December, and as a CEDA member, this is relatively unusual. Fellow Norwich-based dealer, Catershop, also folded last June, although founder, Richard Todd, has now established a new dealership called Elite Foodservice Design in nearby Lowestoft.
This roster was recently joined by Bury St Edmunds-based distributor, Akro Catering Equipment. While Akro’s directors, Claire Batt and Kelvin Phillips, were keen to emphasise that the company could have continued trading, they blamed online dealers for squeezing margins so much that they didn’t feel it was worth carrying on.
Catering Insight knows of at least one more recognised name on the verge of shutting up shop too. We obviously all hope these are no more than the usual refreshing of the marketplace and not a downward trend. However, speaking to a cross-section of the industry at the recent Great Hospitality Show exhibition in the Birmingham NEC, it did seem that most people were pretty positive about the overall market and their business situation.
While online competition and low prices are frequently cited as the reasons why distributors are failing, maybe it is time for kitchen design houses to take matters into their own hands and band together to educate more end users on the added value they can offer. Rather than the operators purely basing any equipment purchasing decisions on price alone, distributors might benefit from collectively emphasising a more long-term approach to appliance purchase and maintenance.
The winds of change have also been blowing for suppliers recently. The merry-go-round of personnel changes at the top has swung round for another revolution, with Glenn Roberts’ switch from Gram to Brita meaning the vacant MD seat was filled by another well-known industry face, Steve Loughton.
His former employer, Jestic, then subsequently restructured, with Ben Dale internally promoted into the new role of director and general manager. Elsewhere, temperature monitoring system manufacturer, Monika, underwent restructuring too, which meant the MD role and incumbent Simon Frost departed.
Pro Foodservice Reps also continued its growth, picking up former Foster Refrigerator regional sales manager, Chris Currie, as business development manager, looking after dealers in Scotland and the north east of England.
All of these moves just go to show how small a world the catering equipment community is. As good old Hotel California said: “You can check out any time, but you can never leave.”