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PEW talks to Timeguard

Timeguard is one of the best-known and most trusted brands in the business. It pioneered Economy 7, plug-in timeswitches, single-gang RCD switched sockets and fused spur timeswitches and it brought PIR lighting to consumer markets.

Now, as part of the Theben Group, it’s continued to thrive, and wholesalers can rely on Timeguard for innovative new products that boost sales every season. PEW spoke to Andy Douglas, Managing Director, to find out more.

How did you get into the industry and what is your current position?

My first job in the electrical industry was back in 1983 as an Internal Sales Engineer for B&R Electrical Products in Harlow, dealing with the company’s varied customers of OEM’s, Electrical Wholesalers, High Street retailers and DIY superstores. As my career progressed, I found myself thoroughly enjoying being in the electrical trade, and in 1995, I made the move from PowerBreaker to Timeguard, an exciting business that has given me great opportunities. Starting as Sales Director, I quickly moved on to become Sales and Marketing Director and then onto Managing Director. I would say that first and foremost I am a salesman, but I also love marketing and am also totally committed to the marketing mix. For sure, I like a good story to tell and stories don’t come much better than Timeguard’s.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Naturally there have been a few over the years. In the early days, re-branding away from the Smiths name stands out – but we did so whilst maintaining market share and primarily because of our excellent product designs, the sheer high quality of our products and our great team. Our wholesaler customers knew they could rely on our products and that we were fully committed to supporting them and the distribution channel. Another challenge has been the re-structuring of the business, from the early days of single product production lines, through to faster quick change cellular-manufacturing units, right through to today’s combination of UK assembly and China manufacturing to bring the benefits of lower cost products to all our customers.

Dare I mention the ‘B’ word? Well the crash in £ Sterling after the Brexit referendum certainly hit businesses of our size which don’t have huge funds to use as a hedge against volatility, but we have managed this obstacle and still invested across our Time, Light, Safety and Climate control technologies.

How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?

We’ve navigated all sorts of ups and downs, crashes and booms in the industry over the years, but the over-riding change has been the necessity to switch to far eastern production and to avoid becoming a “me too” producer. We do still have our London based manufacturing centre in Cricklewood – North West London, where our engineering design team is based, but economic reality has driven much of our production overseas. Of course, the industry has widely accepted this change was made by many suppliers, but it has also been reassuringly quick to smoke out the bargain basement cowboys who bring the cheap, often low quality, products to the market.

I say ‘reassuringly’ because we took an early decision to invest in ensuring high product quality. We not only own our own tooling and product designs, but we also have exclusive agreements with our manufacturing partners. Additionally, we employ our own technical/quality people in China to oversee production. Furthermore, my Technical Manager and I visit our factory partners several times per year.

What do you consider Timeguard’s unique selling points?

Innovation! We bring something new to the table season after season and we support it with guaranteed high quality and great technical back up. Wherever you are in the supply chain, be it as a wholesaler or an installer, you know you can trust Timeguard. You also know that we remain committed to the wholesaler channel and the trade, supporting your efforts to grow your sales in a challenging economic climate by providing new innovation time after time.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

What I hope for – and expect – is to be working within the wholesale channel that continues to evolve and thrive. I certainly have no personal plans to move on from Timeguard as I love the company and enjoy being part of a dynamic team. Professionally, we have a product pipeline that will keep us, and our customers, one step ahead.

We all know we are going to see a sea change in the market as smart technology trickles down and becomes more widespread, and web shops push the boundaries on service levels and price, but there is a transitional phase to navigate and, with this comes huge opportunities. We’ve paved the way and plugged gaps with products like our affordable Wi-Fi controllers, multi-point dimmers and daylight-harvesting PIRs.

What new products is Timeguard launching in 2019?

One of our biggest launches this year is of a relatively unglamorous staple: a range of safety RCD sockets and spurs that simply bring the technology right up to date and meet the new BS7288:2016 British Standard. Of course, we also reviewed, updated and improved virtually every component while we were at it!

We’ll also be launching many new and exciting products, such as wall-switch delay timers, new LED bulkheads – including 3,000k and 4,000k versions, new higher specification PIR’s and Photocell wall switch controls – great for switching LED’s where the installer only has a 2-wire supply. We’ll also be launching our new 100A fused switch as well as our new Emergency Assist Alarm Call system.

How does Timeguard support and invest in its wholesaler partners?

Naturally we produce high quality point of sale support, and our packaging also does a great job of explaining and selling the products too. Nevertheless, nothing substitutes for having the right products inside those boxes – and we do. They meet our markets needs and are easy to install and operate. Everyone is happy and our product return rates remain infinitesimal.

I’ve got a great team on the road, so we have regular face to face contact with our wholesaler customers, who in turn speak to the installers every day. Of course, we’re also listening, and our R&D pipeline is driven by what you’re telling us.

For more information on Timeguard click here.

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