Ed’s view: The winds of change

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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.

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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.”

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2 Comments

  1. The Oracle said:

    Well Ed I don’t think it will be the last dealer to shut shop its a sing of the times in our trade lack of margin, increased costs and the older dealers starting to retire or throw the towel in.

    You are right in general terms the trade is positive but when you break it down most of the positive comments come from manufacturers and kitchen design houses who are either selling direct, have it specified or are working on low margins (many large projects are going in at the moment of cost and 4-8%). Which brings us to another point in recent times its become very blurred who exactly is a kitchen design house and who is a distributor with both sides crossing over nowadays often to make a £ or ££ in fear that they might miss out on something and taking little notice to if they actually have the skills and ability to be both… which brings us onto distributors exactly what is a distributor? by definition its as follows

    “An entity that buys noncompeting products or product lines, warehouses them, and resells them to retailers or direct to the end users or customers. Most distributors provide strong manpower and cash support to the supplier or manufacturer’s promotional efforts. They usually also provide a range of services (such as product information, estimates, technical support, after-sales services, credit) to their customers”.

    so based on that definition there are NOT actually many distributors in our trade! and exactly how does a manufacturer in our trade define a distributor because “back in the day” if you were a dealer fro one range of refrigeration or cooking equipment then you were not a dealer for another range etc…partly because you supported the manufacturer and partly because the competing manufacturers wanted to support their distributors unlike today where virtually every manufacturer will supply anybody at the same price regardless of the volume of business and the trade wonders why box shifters have price wars all day long!

    Finally Ed your spot on its a very incestuous trade is ours with people moves often based on who you know and not what you know.

  2. Mick Brown Director said:

    One of the reasons firms Close wether it be in the Catering Equipment or any other industry is this ridiculous thing called dress down Friday.
    On many occasions when I have met a rep on a Friday he arrives without a tie,sometimes with out a jacket and tells me that the weekend is here.
    So in fact he is working a four day week and his attitude towards work is relaxed to say the least.
    Many years ago when I was a rep it was unthinkable to meet a client without wearing a suit.
    In fact it shows a complete lack of respect and if these reps turn up to meet me in this laid back attire I cancel the appointment.

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