Warewashing manufacturers detail distribution strategies

Most warewashing manufacturers rely on distributors to get their products out to the market, so the relationship between the two has to be built on solid foundations.

For example, Electrolux’s area sales managers support its partners through regular meetings and communication. Over the last year the brand has appointed product specific category managers to offer further support, including a warewashing manager. Additionally the manufacturer hired a HORECA segment manager to work across the foodservice and laundry divisions.

Louisa Luxton, field sales manager for Electrolux food service said: “Many of our partners work within the project-led market and they often also tap into replacement opportunities. We’re also seeing some of our partners choosing to become segment specific which is a real strength of our network.”

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Over at Hobart UK, its current priority is to address the issue of proper machine maintenance. “Put simply, sound service support can elongate the life of a machine. Cheaper maintenance may look good on the face of it, but less scrupulous suppliers won’t have the requisite training and may have only a limited knowledge of the machine they have been asked to service,” commented Tim Bender, UK sales director. Hobart has also extended its 12-month interest free payment plan into 2015, an offer it introduced through its distributors late last year.

It believes the market is heading in the right direction and has posted a 25% growth every year since its inception in 2003.Throughout this year the firm will invite its distributors for training at its purpose-build centre in Peterborough to help raise awareness of the issue.

Project Distribution employs a similar strategy, by offering in-house dealer training and organising sales rep visits. The company believes that distributors know how best to sell a product and it wants to ensure they have the required knowledge to do so. Darren Mairs, national accounts manager, said: “Our aim is to assist our dealers to perform effectively in their marketplace by providing everything they need to outsell their competition.” [[page-break]]

Meiko too will continue to work closely with distributors, and its channels vary: from traditional distributors selling one-off appliances through showrooms, through to kitchen houses that design and specify its products into their individual schemes. At present it has 140 listed distributors, varying between partner, associate and general distributors. Meiko UK MD Bill Downie detailed: “Maximum benefits are offered to our partners, although we do expect a certain level of business within a 12-month period to retain partner status, or to elevate from associate to partner level.”

The UK arm of Sammic wants to educate dealers as to its latest developments, via its web portals and blogs, plus it has just released its 2015 brochure, which will contain many new items. John Lloyd, sales manager at Sammic said: “We are working with our distributors to offer as much product support as possible, developing over 100 online training/demonstration videos, and we have comprehensive support literature across our product range.”

The network has enabled the manufacturer to grow 25% per year over the last two years and demand is said to still be increasing. “Traditionally we have been very strongly into restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes and now we want to take that success with distributors to other areas of the market,” Lloyd added.

Last year was successful for Smeg, as it was the first full year of the manufacturer selling warewashing to the UK market. Phil Coulstock, commercial channel director, detailed: “2015 for Smeg represents a big push in growing our distributor network and looking at the types of distributors we deal with; we don’t want to change too many things as our current strategy works well for us and we want it to continue to grow without causing any issues for our current network. We have employed two new regional sales managers to both better service our existing network but also to identify and open new accounts with potential new distributors.”

Smeg’s distributor network is currently made up of predominantly service/sales businesses that generally sell its products regionally to the independent market. “The success in this approach comes from them taking ownership of the sale, both specifying the correct product for the site based on their knowledge of the end user’s business, installing and commissioning the machine correctly, as well as setting up things like the chemical dosing and showing the end users how to operate it correctly,” explained Coulstock. [[page-break]]

Elsewhere, Winterhalter is developing a distributors-specific digital platform that will ultimately make it easier for them to deal with the manufacturer. “As you’d expect, we possess a huge amount of data and information on our products, with varying degrees of sensitivity. We believe that by providing our distributors with access to technical data and images etc. that we wouldn’t necessarily want in the wider public domain, we can make working with us much easier,” said marketing manager Paul Crowley. “A further priority is to educate distributors about some of the misleading marketing messages and documentation that continue to circulate. A quick glimpse at the small print or to ensure like-for-like comparisons are being made often result in distributor dismay!”

Its dealer network balances national, regional and specialist distributors. “It’s interesting to see the larger nationals jostle to take the innovation lead, whilst some of the smaller or specialist distributors are really starting to stretch us with the types of information they demand of us,” commented Crowley.

Valera’s priorities for warewashing distribution are the same as for the rest of its products, ie. ensuring it has sufficient stock to expedite speedy delivery; providing a reliable, quality product that the distributor (and end user) will have confidence in; offering a straightforward delivery process (and installation too where required); and supporting all of these with technical and after sales service. The firm has 2,000 dealers but will be focusing on the top 100 of those, based in UK, Ireland and France.

Wexiödisk uses a combination of lead dealers and standard dealers, as well as wholesalers, to provide an efficient nationwide coverage, penetrating many of the market sectors that individual dealers now specialise in, something that would prove too great a task for it to do directly. Simon Frost, UK and Ireland country manager said: “Those with lead dealer status benefit from enhanced support, lead generation and greater margins and discounts on sales, although standard dealers will also benefit from factory support and discounts.”

As an independent dealer-only supplier of warewashing systems, DC Products believes it is in a good position to deliver big brand-type benefits, while maintaining a focus on the customer and keeping prices low. Director Bob Wood commented: “We are always looking at ways to add to our network of distributors but we are also very aware of making sure our existing distributors are happy. So although our coverage has improved greatly over the years there are still some areas that have potential for us and we’ll be working on those over the coming year.” Its representative base has diversified from service engineer/companies to include more sales focused distributors and design houses.

Maidaid believes distributors are its lifeblood and it is always looking to add new ones to its network. It will also be working closely with buying groups such as ENSE. It suggested that the ongoing school kitchen refurbishments offer its distributor partners a great opportunity. [[page-break]]

Valera’s marketing manager Kurran Gadhvi agrees with this assessment: “We believe that many schools will have tried to continue operating with their existing warewashing equipment but may now be finding that the increased uptake of school meals means that that equipment is no longer able to cope.”

Electrolux’s Luxton suggested that opportunities for its distributors would come in the form of the new cooking techniques its development chefs are working on. “Our partners can utilise our Centre of Excellence to bring their own existing customers or potential customers too,” she said. The centre has just had a rack type dishwasher installed.

At Meiko, the introduction of a ‘no-bills’ guarantee for either 3 or 5 year terms will provide an opportunity to further increase the casual dining accounts its distributors have brought onboard over the past year. Downie said: “It is evident that casual dining operators are not prepared to wait for up to three days for breakdown support on critical equipment, nor spend money on extended warranty options up front and then still get bills for non-warranty repairs. We are therefore very keen to work with distributors in developing further the relationship with the key account groups as we believe that our technical support offering is what this market sector is looking for.”

Sammic will be extending warranties on many products and introducing new products throughout this year. “This will create a lot of opportunities for our distributor network with demand increasing as our products are requested by more markets. The strength of our warewashing range having three main product ranges offers a lot of flexibility to our customers,” said Lloyd.

DC Products’ Wood detailed his firm’s strategy: “As one of the perhaps lesser known brands we are constantly striving to increase our presence in the marketplace which in turn assists our distributors. This takes many forms, from advertising and editorial coverage to support at local and national shows. Our presence on social media is also starting to take shape which is a good way to involve distributor partners or help showcase their work or latest installations.”

Winterhalter’s Crowley believes that the flexibility of its products has resulted in some of its machines being used in unusual ways. “The message to distributors is to not necessarily look at the stainless steel box and think: this is a glasswasher or a dishwasher. Instead, think ‘can these boxes wash x or y?’ There are markets and opportunities out there that are untapped, or relatively new to using commercial warewashers.”

Wexiödisk has also seen its products specified for new markets, such as schools, large high street chains and leisure sites. It believes the buoyant market offers many opportunities to distributors. Additionally it will launch a new undercounter range in the coming months to further open up other market sectors.

Smeg is also launching new products: semi-professional machines offering the ability to sell a twin basket machine to sites where speed, efficiency and hygiene are essential. “These products have been derived from a machine sold in Smeg’s medical division and have been adapted to suit the commercial catering sector. They are more like a domestic machine in their layout but share no components with our domestic machines and are capable of washing up to 40 cycles per day,” explained Coulstock.

The SW262 model is suitable for kitchens in shared office buildings, small independent hotels, clubhouses and private households offering quick wash cycles at temperatures around 60-70°C. The SWT262 model performs wash cycles at slightly high temperatures including two 93°C thermo-disinfection cycles. These models are suitable for care sites such as care homes, childcare centres, hospital wards and kitchens.

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