There’s been an extra emphasis on dealer engagement over the past year at catering equipment behemoth, Nisbets. The Bristol-based company is aiming to smooth its relationships with the UK distributor network, supplying to them through its wholesale division, Uropa Distribution.
Nisbets UK sales director Robin White is eager to underline the firm’s latest outreach efforts: “What we’ve been trying to do over the last 12 months is finding out how we can support our dealer partners to achieve what their goals are.
“We remain fully committed to our Uropa channel. There has been speculation about where it fits into Nisbets’ strategy, but it remains a core pillar and is critical to getting our multitude of brands out to operators within the hospitality sector.”
Detailing that Uropa generates a fifth of Nisbets’ business, White reported that the company is launching a new structure and proposition that will “continue to add value to our dealers”. He underlined: “We want to let dealers know we are committed to the channel and we’ve put in more of a structure and greater visibility and transparency around the offer.
“We’re going to continue to invest and support through promotions, offers and value-add services. For some of our dealers we’ve got an export route too. Those are the sort of things we’re looking to increase and improve over time to really strengthen that partnership.”
The new structure is reflected in the introduction of four dealer levels. Acknowledging that one of the differentiating thresholds is spend, White added: “It’s all underpinned by the same overarching proposition of next day delivery, and all our brands coming under one roof, so all of our dealers have access to that, and having a very personalised website and branded catalogues they can take to market.
“Depending on the nature and size of it, over time there will be other value-added items we will look to introduce to help them grow and develop their businesses. We want it to be a mutually beneficial partnership; trying to get that balancing act right is what we’ve been spending the last 12 months doing.”
White feels: “There probably aren’t many dealers in the UK that we don’t have some form of relationship with, but now dealers have a choice, and we’ve got to continue to make sure that we promote ourselves and offer value to them so they view Uropa as their partner of choice.”
With some dealers remaining sceptical about linking up with Uropa, viewing it as essentially ‘putting money into a competitor’s pocket’, White was keen to reassure them: “Hopefully when they see the proposition and what’s happened, they will see that Nisbets does want a partnership with them. We recognise that at times there are some tensions. There’s no getting away from the choice that end users have of going to Nisbets direct rather than Uropa. We’re not shying away from that but we’re doing our very best to say, as we’ve proven in the last 5 years, that both of them sit alongside each other. And that’s how we continue to see it.”
“But it’s a two-way street – unfortunately some of our dealers are using our brands to go to their website and then recommending a different product. We want it to be a partnership and it should go both ways.”
He continued: “Our commercial approach enables dealers to generate return. Sometimes it may be a promotion, but equally we’re going to make promotions available through the Uropa channel that won’t be on the Nisbets site, and we will manage that on a case by case basis.”
Explaining that resolving the pricing structure is what’s taken the company 12 months to carry out, White said: “There was no easy way to balance this, and that’s what we’ve given our best endeavours and this new tier structure is our way of getting clarity and transparency around that. We will be trying to make sure that there is a commercial return for our dealer partners.”
Uropa now has nearly 2,000 dealer accounts, with White detailing that those who spend more will get extra value and extra service. “We’re trying to make that a far more open conversation rather than just depending on who they’ve spoken to on the phone to what discount dealers receive, and that’s where we’re trying to progress and develop our offer,” he said.
“The early signs are that it’s landing really well. Our area sales managers have been out to 300 dealers recently and 99% were positive. There are others who want to be in a different tier, but we can help develop a business plan to get them into that tier.”
Equipment brands which can be accessed using the Uropa channel include Nisbets own labels Polar Refrigeration, Buffalo heavy duty equipment, Olympia tableware and Vogue cookware, while other exclusive brands include Waring blenders, Dynamic food preparation equipment, Hygiplas light equipment, Jantex cleaning products, Chef Works kitchen apparel and Bolero furniture.
However Nisbets’ recently-launched entry level Essentials light equipment range is only available to end users.
According to White: “We are making distributors aware of the breadth of what’s available to them, so we are shining a spotlight on the entire range across all categories.”
Therefore Uropa has launched a new catalogue detailing its latest offers and updated its website. New features include more personalisation, with offers tailored to individual dealers, as 80-90% of the wholesale division’s dealers transact with Uropa through its website, though White underlined that the firm’s office team in Avonmouth are also there to manage dealer queries on the phone.
He commented: “The market’s dramatically different than it was a few years ago, and online is bringing all that to the fore, so our agility and setting up how our pricing links to all our channels and routes to market, that takes some time.”
There are now more than 20 full-time employees dedicated to Uropa, with some active in the field and visiting dealers on a day-to-day basis, as well as the office-based team. According to White: “In the office it’s a contained team of six. They absolutely have their own identity, brand, website, email addresses and business cards. We’re trying to make sure that through our marketing and campaigns they have their own exclusive offers and that’s what we’re really keen to push and promote in the months and years ahead.”
In terms of after-sales, for Nisbets own brands the group has the Uropa Service in-house warranty team, which can also help dealers on installations, though White acknowledged that many dealers prefer to take responsibility for that aspect themselves.
White also emphasised: “We’ve got Chef Leasing, our leasing arm for some of our equipment, so one of the future things we are looking at is how we can offer such a service to our dealer partners as well.”
He concluded: “Our dealer partners have been incredibly supportive over the last 5 years, which is why we’ve grown at such a pace. We’ve just taken the chance to take a step back to make sure that it works for all the key stakeholders. Clearly the commercial elements are at the forefront of that, but we’ve really trying to emphasise the service level and the value that you get from being a partner.”