There were decidedly mixed fortunes for online catering equipment sales last month. On one hand, Sous Vide Tools swiftly pulled the rug out from under its Shop-Equip venture, citing negative dealer feedback as the reason for its abrupt about-face.
The idea was that the online dealer would be transformed into a supplier, serving both the dealer network and an end user supply channel.
But you could argue in the same breath that this quick change of mind is both listening to your customers and being pushed over by them. After all, the company runs the same sales model for Sous Vide Tools itself, with both dealers and end users buying chefs’ gadgets from the firm. So what is the difference between that and a broader range of equipment available through a Shop-Equip-branded channel?
On the other side of things, Catering Appliance Superstore was the main beneficiary of the move, as it purchased the Shop-Equip domain name, which should drive more traffic to its site. It did not purchase any other assets though, so the former Shop-Equip website itself has now been lost in the ether.
But one web-based trend which seems to be gathering momentum is that of manufacturers enabling dealers themselves to order online. These extremely useful portals enable distributors to view pricing, track order dispatch and delivery and even configure bespoke products for their end users.
Hobart was one of the main proponents of this approach with its Focus Plus 5 portal for its warewash division, and it is now aiming to roll this out to the cooking solutions side of the company following the pair’s recent merger.
Lincat joined the fray in February with a hugely comprehensive site launch, while on the light equipment side, Nevilles detailed its new dealer portal and app to delegates at this year’s CESA Light Equipment and Tableware Forum in March.
Nevilles’ site details all the latest tableware and buffetware launches to dealers, as well as giving site users an interactive walkthrough of its central London showroom. The app goes even further to be useful to distributors, with push notifications alerting them when new catalogues or products are available.
The common factors in all of these sites is that they can be regularly updated without hassle. Manufacturers don’t need to kill trees by sending around new price lists or spec sheets every few months – with the information being held in a central repository, the revisions are instantaneous and universal.
The efficiency and convenience of online will only grow more essential, so it’s only natural that it is creeping up the supply chain. As more and more suppliers join in, those who don’t will find themselves left behind in the not so distant future.