If you’ve been following events on the high street closely during the last few years, you’ll know that one of the biggest talking points has been the need for retailers to develop a multi-channel approach to business.
The onus has been put on retailers to ensure customers can procure the product they want, using the precise medium they want, whether it be in store, through a mobile phone, via a catalogue, or over the internet and delivered to the doorstep.
From clothing chains to supermarkets, any player with ambitions to protect their position has had to throw a significant sum of money at making sure all their channels-to-market are finely tuned.
The same trend appears to be unravelling in the catering equipment market, not necessarily with companies who make the majority of their income from project work, but those for which the sale of kitchen products, supplies and sundries accounts for the bulk of sales.
Resellers that once excelled off the back of large field sales teams scattered around the country and product catalogues published once are year are now having to carefully assess what else they must do to ensure they don’t miss out on any low-hanging market fruit.
The most recent issue of Catering Insight featured an interview with directors from Lockhart Catering Equipment, which itself has executed some pretty significant changes to its sales strategy in the last 18 months.
Earlier this year it created a special key accounts department to capture business from the medium-sized sector, while plans are afoot to drive deeper into direct mail. It also now has a meaningful ecommerce site having implemented a major web project last year. Further enhancements are on the way.
In contrast, rival Nisbets is investing in retail stores — its latest one coming in East London. It is a model that hasn’t yet been mirrored by any of its competitors, perhaps because they still need convincing that they can attract the sort of footfall required to cover rental costs and operational expenses.
Nisbets is certainly confident in its approach, however, and will now explore the possibility of opening a site in West London. It is certainly a brave move to want to operate three stores in one city, even accounting for the fact that there are an estimated 6,000 restaurants in the capital.
Whichever way you look at it, the reality of the situation is that buying behaviour is changing faster than we think and, in a lot of cases, it is actually getting harder to predict.
Companies have got to make sure that all the channels they operate are optimised, so that product is available as and when it is demanded.
In future, chefs and end-users are going to feel as strongly about the route they procure the product as the attributes of the product itself.