Catering wholesaler RB Distributors has announced the launch of a brand new range of commercial cooking equipment in the UK, which is available exclusively to its dealer partners.
Robin Candy, brand director of the range, outlines where the kit will fit into the market place and reveals why the success of the brand Down Under gives it optimism that it will flourish on this side of the world.
First of all, what prompted RB Distributors to launch the Thor brand in the UK market?
It’s a combination of three things. We like to give dealers as much choice as possible, so adding to our range can only help to do that. Thor is proven to us, as we have been selling it through our Australian operations for more than a year.
It has done very well for us and been very successful, so the decision was made in mid-2014 to launch it into the UK this January. We also sell thousands of other gas ranges and we can see a small gap in the market for real heavy duty product at a competitive price, which will sit between some of the lighter duty products on the market. We have really just identified a gap in the market place.
What expectations do you have for the range in terms of its market potential in the UK?
It is a new brand that is just launching so we are cautious with our expectations, however as more and more dealers and their customers get to see the products and feel the quality and the weight, and the way in which these products are put together, I think the brand will quickly accelerate in the market place and will do very well for us.
As with any brand launch, it’s also about brand awareness and people trusting the brand, so we recognise that that will take a while to build, too.
Dealers have a lot of choice when it comes to cooking ranges — what makes Thor worth looking at and where do you see it being positioned in the market?
It is a true heavy duty product. There are a huge range of products — from light duty to extremely heavy duty — but Thor is heavy duty and if weight is a good indicator of product build quality, then these are very well put together.
One of the key selling points is that it is very competitively priced in the market place, so anyone who wants the look and feel and performance of a heavy duty model but perhaps can’t afford the top-end stuff, it’s going to give them a real option that I don’t think exists today.
We pride ourselves on being able to give our customers next day-delivery, and if that’s not possible then two to three days. Thor product will be available from our warehouse, from stock, usually within 48 hours, or guaranteed within three days.
The other thing that’s important for our dealers is that it will be exclusively available to RBD, so RBD will have a product that non-RBD dealers will not be able to source. That should be seen as a good thing in the market.
You said Thor had been a success for you in Australia. Is that where the range is built? If so, what is your stockholding strategy given that shipping times are likely to be longer from that part of the world?
Thor is an Australia-invested company. It is run by Australians, and the managing director is Australian.
The company is headquarted in Hong Kong and the products are manufactured in Zhuhai, and the facilities there are run in a Western way. They take advantage of the savings that are to be made in China and reinvest that back into the products.
In terms of shipping times, we source from all corners of the globe currently and as one of our selling points is our fast delivery, we invest heavily in stockholding to ensure we have product here available for our customers. It’s a major consideration and we have invested a lot into managing this process.
What sort of warranty and service support will there be for the Thor brand in the UK?
The warranty is two years on-site parts and labour. RBD doesn’t offer a servicing contract but we can recommend or put our customers in touch with people who can provide that service.
Have you considered where you intend to go with the Thor brand further down the line?
We have already begun looking at additional product we can add to the range and are working with Thor to develop products that are tailored to the UK market, as opposed to Australia, because there are some differences.
In the first instance it would be heavy duty gas ranges. We have high expectations with this product launch and we need to make sure we give that the right level of support and energy to ensure it’s a success and we can take it to the next stage.