Steve Stroud joined distributor Computers Unlimited as retail sales manager in February this year, with the mission statement of growing the division in the United Kingdom and abroad. Andrew Wooden talks to the man behind the firm's ambitious three year plan?

No Limits

When was Computers Unlimited formed? How has the business evolved since its inception?
The company was founded in 1985 by James Sanson, so we’re now roughly 22 years old. We’ve now got 160 staff, spread across offices in the UK, France and Spain. So in that time 22-year period the company has grown quite substantially.

What would you identify as the strongest aspect of your business?
We have a wide variety of divisions offering services to customers. From my side, I manage the retail division so the objective for me is to grow our existing retail divisions substantially. I have a three-year plan in mind, and in that time I want to grow the retail division quite considerably. In percentage terms I would like to think we can grow it at least 25 per cent in the next three years.

That’s realistically what I want to try and achieve. The thing for us is that we have over one hundred vendors that we deal with currently, which gives an insight into our breadth. Those vendors are across a lot of categories, from PC accessories to laptop bags to iPod accessories. The main core of our business is that we are the main third party sole distributors for all the Apple and Apple Premium Reseller stores. That’s certainly one of our unique selling points.

So for me, I want to see our retail business grow substantially, with the vendors that we currently have, and in the process of increasing that we will also bring new vendors to the business as well.

What would you say is the key difference between you and your rivals?
From my perspective, we have got a selection of vendors that deal exclusive with us, so that does give us an advantage in the market place.

One thing for us is that we’re always looking to bring in leading technology from our vendors and pass that on to our retail customers and customers within our business.

Would you say you have a company ethos?

Yes. We’re very much a firm that works closely together. The company directive going forward is all the same, everybody’s crystal clear on that in that we are all working very closely to achieve the same goal.

What has been your biggest success of the last year?

One of the big things for us is that we deal with the educational side of the business, and that is something that we do uniquely. No other distributor offers that service, so that’s very much a part of the market that we are strong in with our vendors and partners. That does make us slightly unique from everybody else in the channel, and it has been very successful for us. It’s something we will certainly continue to be in the future.

We obviously have the retail business, the educational side with Adobe and vendors like Quark and everything else on the software side. It’s a part of the business that we identified some time ago had the opportunityto supply products to the educational sector.

We’ve been doing it for a number of years now, we’ve been very successful at it. We’ve developed and grown that market year-on-year, and we will continue to do that. From that perspective that is one of our unique selling points that we offer vendors when we sell their products to our customers.

What are your main specific goals for the year?

The main goals will definitely be to increase our current products that we feature and get them into our existing retail partners. The other objective for me is to open a new retrial business for CU. They are my two main objectives for this year.

Any plans for expansion across the company as a whole in the pipeline?

In terms of the objectives set by CEO James Sanson, we’re always going to look at the opportunities to expand. One thing for me is that CU has never attended the IFA electronics show in Germany. We will be participating in that show in some format.

The fact is we are currently have a presence in the UK, France and Spain, and since it’s German show, there’s the opportunity to show not only our current customers but other firms in Europe can come and talk to us about expanding opportunities across the countries we currently don’t cover.

So you’re pushing for a bigger European presence this year?
Yes, that is part of the reason for attending those sorts of shows. We’ll be there to meet with retail customers with the aim of growing business.

Do you get involved with UK trade shows much at all?

We do attend trade shows because we have a number of vendors that we distribute for, whether it’s consumer electronics or home security etc, we have a large number of vendors so we tend to attend those shows that are relevant to the vendor’s products that we have.

For us, we’re looking at retail, and B2B opportunities of growing the business with our customers.

Where do you see the firm positioned in a couple of year’s time?

In terms of retail, we want to be one of the top three distributors to the retail market in the United Kingdom. Certainly, it is our aim to be that in the next two to three years. That is purely what I am looking to grow and establish.

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