Andy Douglas, Managing Director at Timeguard, discusses why it pays to invest in truly innovative products and why choosing to invest in stock is more than just a numbers game.
It takes a lot of faith for a manufacturer to think outside the box and introduce something brand new to the market, when they could just badge another “me too” range and tweak the price to boost sales. But if nobody innovates, then we will all become stuck in a depressing downward price spiral, chasing short-term numbers without seeing the bigger picture.
Risk and reward
I also appreciate that innovation takes a lot of faith from you as stockists. You commit valuable shelf space to something as yet untried, especially when the headline numbers might seem to say that the volume sales come from the safe, old-faithful lines or a slightly cheaper version thereof. It is fair to say that innovation and quality assurance can carry a premium, and you have to weigh up the limits to space available for showcasing these new products. However progressive wholesalers who do invest in stocking innovative products consistently see new product premiums translate into solid £ note margins that quickly add up.
An extra percentage point on margin here and there might not seem much, but when you see it in the context of the benefit to the business, it may well influence your decision making. Furthermore, manufacturers often back up innovation with promotional support to educate the market to the benefits of their new ideas, and this can also help provide a quick turnover for you, releasing cash back into the business.
While the numbers don’t lie, I’m not sure they can ever tell the whole story. For instance, would all of the products we’ve introduced over the years ever have made it to the production line if we’d relied on the number crunchers analyses? Would these products, being untried in the market, ever have made it from our warehouse to your shelves? It would be a shame if they had not, because every time we’ve declined the soft option of playing safe in the years I’ve been with Timeguard, we’ve been flattered by the speed with which other firms rush to try and emulate our innovations.
So, with all this in mind, we’re happy enough with the situation because we can maintain the edge on design, quality assurance and warranties from factory to end user and we’ve usually got the next new product up our sleeve anyway.
Innovation breeds sales and sales breed more innovation and even though it may not work that way on every occasion industry wide, the ones that pick-up speed and strong momentum really do provide the benefits so many stockists are looking for.
What is it that ignites an idea and then drives it hard enough to overcome the natural due diligence and caution of our respective teams? I would say it is well-informed market knowledge, continually working with our customers, constantly gaining great feedback from installers nationwide that you actively channel through to us, and of course, even a bit of gut instinct thrown in for good measure. All these factors enable us to innovate and bring the new technologies and products to market with the expectation that you will not only stock them, but you will benefit from fresh sales with strong £ margins they can achieve. Therefore, we are happy to say that you will still be getting the personal visits from the Timeguard team, (pandemic permitting) to see for yourselves the latest Timeguard innovations and for you to share installers thoughts and new product ideas in return.
It’s worth saying that having talented product design engineers with a “Yes, we can!” attitude is a pretty fundamental requirement too, and this season we are boosting our business and yours with a simple concept to provide users with an extra hour or two of power to an appliance without the risk of leaving them switched on (expensive!) or overriding timers and then staying off permanently (cold and annoying!). You told us your customers wanted something like it and wholesalers are now successfully selling Boost Timing in everything from a simple countdown timer to an integrated device combining programmable timing, fused spur protection and a boost button al in one. New additions to the range have big, easy-read digital countdown displays with real counter appeal.
So, what’s the ‘take way’ from my musings? Certainly respect the numbers but remember, they can only answer the questions you ask, and they don’t generate the ideas that drive change – you do! As Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt said a century ago: “ideas are useless unless they are used”. Well, we’re happy to keep turning our ideas into products as long as you are happy to channel them to the installers and end users. That way, everyone’s a winner!
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
To learn more about Timeguard and to see the range of new products it has on offer, visit https://www.timeguard.com/