This year, fischer fixings UK is celebrating its 50th anniversary. PBM speaks with new Managing Director James LeGrys to find out more about the company’s growth over the last half century and its approach to servicing the needs of trade professionals in tandem with the support it offers the merchant sector.
Has the company made any recent investment into its manufacturing and production facilities?
fischer has always been a leader in innovation and 2019 has been no different. Not only has the fischer group invested in new subsidiaries around the globe to further extend its sales reach, the business has also invested in new production facilities to cope with the unprecedented demand for one of our most innovative products — the DUOPOWER two-component universal plug.
The company now produces this in our two biggest marketplaces, Italy and Germany, and the demand has been so large that the DUOLINE range now extends to three products and this will rise to four in 2020.
What new products have you recently brought to the market and what do you hope to achieve for your target audience?
In 2019, fischer launched countless new products that you should have seen on your shelves already. New products are of huge importance to the group, but so are new sales channels and one of the latest ranges is specific to the DIY channel. Called “No tools, just hands”, there are over 10 products in the range to help solve common household tasks such as picture hanging and repairs without the need for tools.
In terms of current market trends, what are the main drivers within your corner of the industry?
The construction industry has definitely changed over the past four years I’ve been at fischer. We see more and more enquiries relating to the health and safety aspects of our products and the installation ease. It seems to be more about how we can make construction professionals lives easier and safer, rather than simply getting the job done quicker and cheaper.
There has been a clear transition in our product range too. We are now one of the few suppliers that offer a dustless drilling system with the fischer hollow drill bits (FHDs) to minimise the impact of silica dust on installers’ respiratory health. Our latest range of concrete screws also require less drill hole cleaning in certain applications, helping to reduce this impact too. In general though, it is about simplifying installation practices so things just can’t go wrong!
For our distribution network, a big focus is the reliability of supply. Over the last few years, and especially with the uncertainties of Brexit, fischer has increased its stockholding levels both globally and locally to make sure we continue as the most reliable ‘glocal’ partner our customers operate with.
Furthermore, fischer UK has also increased its field sales presence and shored up our logistics networks. This will ensure our customers will still see the same reliable stock deliveries with minimal impact from any decisions of a political nature.
Looking forward, what are the other challenges facing the company?
Challenges should be seen more as opportunities. fischer UK is facing many new opportunities in 2019, not only with myself being appointed as MD (in July) but also a huge increase in external staffing numbers and a brand new developing department within eCommerce.
fischer UK is looking at eCommerce as the future of distribution. More and more of our customers have a growing, demanding, customer base that uses the internet wisely and we want to help our distributors provide the best information and the best availability across any eCommerce platform.
As a business new to this sector, we have invested heavily with excellent results so far.
How important do you consider training to be, for both stockists and end-users?
fischer has always been a leading force in training. In the UK alone, we have a training team of nearly 10 people and so far this year, we have trained almost 2,000 participants.
All of these training sessions are completely FOC and they are fully flexible, from field training onsite or relating to a single product and the correct installation practices, to a more general overview of fixing technology done in our training academy.
We also now offer VR training session on several of the headline products, ‘bringing the construction site into the comfort of your office’.
How would you describe the current status of the firm’s relationship with merchants?
Being honest, fischer UK hasn’t always had a great relationship within the merchant sector and I feel that, in the past, fischer has been seen as a purely ‘site sales’ company.
However, in the past five years under my guidance and through my predecessor’s actions we have definitely focused much more on the merchant sector and now have an established connection in this market.
My own personal history in the industry is also from within the merchant sector. I like to think I know how they operate and that I can bring fischer even closer to meeting the demands of this huge and important sector.
We are developing a bespoke retail solution specifically for the merchant sector, alongside a new and interactive POS system that will not only help merchants sell the fischer products but help to inform the installer as well.
Any final thoughts to share with our readers?
There is a bright future ahead for fischer and the industry in general. As a sector, we always steer a path through times of uncertainty and come out the other end stronger — the situation we find ourselves in currently will be no different.
As the new Managing Director of fischer fixings UK, I believe our duty as a global manufacturer is to minimise any impact from political decisions, continue to develop and enhance our products and improve in every customer-facing aspect that we can. This is what I intend to do.
For more information on fischer’s support for stockists, visit https://www.fischer.co.uk/en-gb/solutions-for/solutions-for-retailer