In his Annual Dinner speech, EDA President Tom Jones was clear that to meet the challenges of a fast changing world new strategies, greater sector cooperation and collaborations, as well as better training will be crucial for success.
At the EDA’s Annual Awards Dinner, held in the InterContinental Hotel in London’s Park Lane, Tom Jones covered a number of themes in his speech. These included the importance of wholesaler / manufacturer cooperation and a focused strategy, sector collaborations to meet the distribution challenges to come, as well as top quality training.
“I believe”, he said, “that wholesalers and manufacturers need to increase their level of appreciation for each other. There is a tendency for us to take each other for granted.
“Wholesalers are the extended sales arm of our manufacturer partners, providing an unparalleled level of time face to face with customers at a local level. For us to grow our businesses, we need to be out selling, and together whenever possible.”
Tom Jones is clear in his view that joint wholesaler/ manufacturer visits to customers is still one of the most effective ways of selling the widest range from within the product basket. “We need to do more of it”, he said.
“We also need to establish better channels of communication between the EDA and manufacturers, so that there is understanding of each other’s challenges and concerns.” He cited the example of faster product introductions and shorter life cycles leading to increase in product obsolescence.
Meeting fake lighting challenges
This theme was reflected by Tom’s announcement of an important collaboration with the Lighting Industry Association (LIA). This will look closely at the increasing problem of counterfeit and grey market lighting products.
“I’m delighted,” he said, “to announce that the LIA and the EDA have signed a joint agreement to work more closely together. This agreement covers a wide range of shared member benefits and services, but is to help wholesalers have confidence that in a world of counterfeit grey market imports, we are clear that what we sell is compliant and performs to its claims.
“Furthermore”, he pointed out: “EDA members now have access to the LIA’s brand new UKAS accredited lighting laboratory.”
Digitisation and strategy
A crucial aspect concerns the fast increasing digitisation of almost everything, the Internet of Things, the ever greater sophistication of factory automation devices and systems, security issues and increasing Internet and retail selling.
Tom warned: “Together we are faced with new multi-channel opportunities and also threats. Working together will safeguard our longstanding relationships and ensure that, together, we remain the principal route to market and strong in the face of new and unwanted entrants.
“Our staff,” he continued, “will need training on these new smart connected products and contractors will need to be upskilled to install them as the future of electrical and digital building infrastructures grows.”
For these reasons, combined with the progressive changes, challenges and opportunities taking place in industry, the EDA Board implemented last July a day dedicated to the future strategy of the Association.
The participants took a close look at the fast changing buying and ordering habits of customers using smarter mobile technologies.
Reflected Tom Jones: “I do believe that wholesalers need to provide electronic ways for their customers to order their goods, provide information…. and sell.”
As a result of the strategy day, the EDA is to survey members concerning their views on multi-channel distribution, their state of readiness for this and their plans and aspirations in the future.
“Following this’” said Tom, “we’ll need our wholesalers’ support to move our initiatives forward. We also plan to engage with our affiliate manufacturers, their trade associations including BEAMA to be clear about how the EDA can galvanise, maintain and improve the principal route to market through the wholesaler distribution channel via the use of digital platforms.”
Concluding his speech, Tom Jones proposed a toast to the EDA’s 570 guests and wished everyone a great evening.