During Catering Equipment Professional’s (CEP) first dealer day within its new showroom at First Choice Group’s purpose-built headquarters in Cannock, the focus was on making distributor profit. CEP MD David Jones presented the supplier’s Refrigeration Professional, Dishwasher Professional and Cook Professional brands while concentrating on four particular product lines drawn from the Electrolux Professional portfolio which the firm provides.
These comprised the Green & Clean hood type dishwasher, featuring a corner panel control; simplified coldroom systems, both integral and remote; the Libero Point mobile front cooking station; and the Cook Professional pizza ovens.
Jones detailed: “These key products are unique in the range, such as the corner operation for the dishwasher, the coldrooms’ complete delivery by our logistics partner, Keith Elkington Transport, and the product’s installation by our specialist service partners, including Flowrite.
“All four products also hold the ability to create sensible profits for distributors, as there’s been a market tendency to drive away all the profit from distributors, and for that matter, manufacturers too.”
CEP has been emphasising the sustainable profit its products can make for dealers, with Jones revealing: “For distributors there is a lot to think about and every manufacturer wants a piece of them. So if I can offer advice at the right level, and focus on products that will make them money, that has to be a good thing.
“By taking a slightly different route, it has created an increase in sales on all four products.” This has resulted in an uptick of CEP’s overall profitability too, with a 5% rise recorded from February 2017.
The change in strategy was prompted by CEP taking part in a government scheme called Growth Accelerator, which helped small businesses. Jones explained: “They sent an external consultant to present the Growth Accelerator to us, showing us that it’s a system of thinking that makes you look at your whole business, and it focused our mind in the right areas.
“Because we have such a large portfolio of products, yet we are a small company, I sometimes have to be all things to all men. Having somebody external to help me focus was a real benefit to us.” Nevertheless, he explained that there are plans to hone the product portfolio down. “As with all manufacturers, the sales come from a certain percentage of products. There are just too many options, especially in refrigeration.”
Since Jones’ brother Kevin stepped down as national business development manager to retire in February, the full time staff roster has reduced too. Instead, CEP is using external resources as and when needed, taking the permanent headcount down to four, though the firm has recently been acquired by Pentland Wholesale.
One example of this is using familiar industry face Alan Evans as a demonstration chef for the dealer day, and CEP will continue to hold these at the new First Choice facility. The plan is to have a minimum of four events a year. “We’ll decrease our trips to Electrolux’s Pordenone factory from two to one per year,” detailed Jones. “Because there’s not much we can’t show at our new onsite showroom now. We will be able to grow the portfolio of products we can demonstrate.”
Dealer feedback from previous events has been positive anyway, according to Jones: “We are comfortable with presenting and have great product knowledge, so we generally get very good feedback. We always make sure we ask the distributors for feedback around a week after the event, so that they’ve had time to reflect.”
Like many suppliers, CEP has had to react to increasing costs, and at the beginning of the year raised its prices by around 8%. However, this was comparatively warmly received, with Jones revealing: “We were very lucky, because prior to us announcing our increase, some other companies had raised their prices by as much as 20%. Having been very scared of increasing it by 8% it was perceived by the distributors of the UK as great. In past years that would not have been the case.
“It’s even left us slightly better in the marketplace than we were previously, because the other brands like ours had those larger increases.”