For a manufacturer seeking to promote innovations such as press-fit fittings to the market having merchants ‘on board’ is essential, as their influence can open the door to large numbers of customers. Dan Wild, Conex Bänninger’s Business Unit Director for the UK and Ireland, explains why the relationship between stockist and supplier is so important.
This is a significant year for Conex Bänninger as we celebrate ‘110 years of innovation’ since the company was founded in 1909. Over that time materials and technologies have changed and many new products have been brought to market.
One of the biggest innovations has been press-fit fittings, which provide a quick, safe and reliable flame-free alternative to brazing products. We introduced our >B< Press range in 1999, although development work actually began in the 1980s. Two years ago the press revolution was extended to the air conditioning and refrigeration sector with the introduction of >B< MaxiPro.
While the large numbers of installers who have made the change from brazing to press fittings are now converts, there are some who still need to be convinced. And accordingly, we are acutely aware that to reach the wider market it is the merchants who often hold the key.
This recognises the important role merchants have to play in helping maintain existing relationships, however they are never more important than when it comes to introducing new products to the market.
Yes, we have a team of Regional Technical Sales Managers (RTSMs) who are tasked with getting across the message that press-fit fittings are safer, that we have removed the fire risk and hot works permits are no longer needed. Backing that up, we can point to numerous projects where the speed and reliability of press has helped contractors increase productivity and complete projects within planned timeframes.
However, it is the merchants who are face-to-face over the counter with the end-user. We need to support them not only by supplying product but also providing them with value-adding services that will enhance their offer to their customers.
The supplier-stockist relationship starts with providing products that the merchant’s customer needs, but it doesn’t stop there. For a close and lasting partnership this has to be backed up with top class service, which leads to trust.
Part of the service is ensuring the merchant has a full understanding of the product, so they can explain the benefits to their customers and answer any questions. This helps raise their profile as ‘go to’ experts, and builds opportunities for sales.
We hold training and product demonstration days throughout the year, to which contractors are also invited. Further technical back-up is provided by the RTSMs, who regularly hold presentation meetings at merchant branches, and we also offer contractors on-site training. We attend the leading industry exhibitions, which our merchants are also present at, providing another opportunity for further interaction.
Additional support for merchants is also available from our marketing department, including point of sale material, technical brochures and sales flyers. Furthermore, we use social, online and traditional print media to engage with installers and contractors who are the stockists’ customers, highlighting their good work and the products they use. This builds installer-confidence and also drives footfall into merchant branches.
Conex Bänninger products are available through a number of merchant channels. We prefer to work with a small number of highly trained and dedicated stockists at a national level, underpinned by strategic regional partners. We also support the independent marketplace as a member of the National Merchant Buying Society (NMBS).
We work closely with our merchants to look at historical sales data and future trends to ensure we get the stock profiles right, with a focus on stock turns and excellent delivery performance.
Reliability of supply is, of course, a key issue for merchants as they need to be confident the right products are available when they need them and in the numbers they require. We hold extensive stocks at our warehouse in Pensnett in the West Midlands, backed up by our huge warehouse and distribution centre in Sady, near Poznan, Poland.
The company provides an extensive range of fittings manufactured in Europe, at both our highly automated production centres in Cordoba and in Poznan. At Cordoba alone, we produce more than 200 million fittings a year. All are produced to the highest accreditations, meeting or exceeding the standards according to the country they are marketed in.
Since its inception, Conex Bänninger has produced more than 22 billion fittings in total, sold here in the UK and in markets across the globe. It is a heritage of innovation we are proud of and one that we are committed to for years to come.
For more information on Conex Bänninger’s complete range of fittings and valve solutions, visit www.conexbanninger.com