Varilight’s Andrew Wilson encourages wholesalers to offer a wider selection of styles and finishes to reflect the growing influence of interior design trends in the wiring accessories market.
Henry Ford famously told his salesmen that a customer could have a car “in any colour… so long as it is black.” Ford’s policy enabled him to reduce costs and increase efficiency in production, and in doing so he opened up the possibility of car ownership to a much wider market. “When I’m through,” he is quoted as saying, “everybody will be able to afford one, and just about everybody will have one.”
His ambition has since largely been fulfilled; 110 years after the Model T was launched, more than 88% of the US population now owns a car. Notably, however, only 12% of those cars are black. Continued growth in the car market has been predicated on offering an increased choice to the consumer with the Ford Fiesta currently available in 15 colours.
Wiring accessories market
The history of decorative wiring accessories in the UK market follows a similar pattern. When we at Varilight began manufacturing in the 1970s, the market was dominated by cast brass wiring accessories.
The production method made cast brass expensive and consequently the market remained relatively small. Our innovation was to develop the cold-pressing technique which is now widely used in the market. Initially we only offered cold pressed accessories in brass, and, just like Ford, this enabled us to lower the costs of production and expand the size of the market in wiring accessories. As fashions changed, brass was overtaken by chrome and then by stainless steel, which has remained the predominant finish for decorative wiring accessories for nearly 20 years.
As the market continued to grow, it was convenient for manufacturers and stockists alike to major on one finish, even as styles developed, with the introduction of “screwless” wiring accessories, for example.
Not only could stockholdings be kept to a manageable size but economies of scale enabled stainless steel accessories to be marketed at low prices. Like the black Model T Ford, the predominance of stainless steel switches and sockets helped grow the total market and, over the past decade, the most innovative manufacturers have diversified their product offerings to cater for changing consumer tastes.
As the costs of moving home have skyrocketed over the past decades, instead of moving to achieve more living space or a different style, home owners have sought to extend or refurbish their current homes. A heightened interest in interior design amongst homeowners has followed and manufacturers have responded by expanding the ranges and finishes they offer to chime with the latest trends.
The most recent trends are for warmer colours, with metals such as copper and brass experiencing a considerable revival across a range of home accessories, in categories such as lighting, bathrooms, kitchens, door furniture and wiring accessories.Retailers have been quick to recognise these trends and adapt their offers to suit.
Time to change?
However, despite this broadening of consumer tastes, some electrical wholesalers remain rooted to stainless steel accessories, maybe out of habit or perhaps for convenience because they have not wanted to tackle the supply chain and stockholding issues that come with expanding the range of options they offer.
Nevertheless, manufacturers recognise that wholesalers have space and budget restrictions that prevent them from endlessly expanding their offers. In response to those issues, we have increased our own stock holding and worked closely with our distributors to achieve fast response times for orders of products wholesalers do not typically hold in stock.
With the supply chain in place, the onus is on wholesalers to make their customers aware of the range of options available, often on a next day service.
In doing so, they can capture new business (often at higher margins) by giving installers the opportunity to differentiate themselves with their increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable clients, keen to choose wiring accessories that tie in with their wider interior design schemes.
To see the entire range of wiring accessories available from Varilight, visit: www.varilight.co.uk/finishes