We talk to VIP’s sales director Richard Marsden about consolidation, customers and components, as well as the two Fs above

Interview: VIP Computers on Flexibility and Focus

While there have been tough trading conditions in the channel, VIP has worked hard to increase its customer base and hit targets.

And at the end of the year it announced that, after an internal review, it was going to merge with sister firm Realtime Distribution.

On January 1st the two companies officially became one as VIP Computers, consolidating their strengths. Now, new VIP sales director Richard Marsden talks to PCR about what this means for the firm’s customers and vendors.

Did the practical business of merging the two companies go smoothly?
Yes, it’s gone well. After the merger was announced we reviewed the businesses to see what processes could be consolidated, and looked at how we’d move vendors and customers from Realtime to VIP.

We had a lot of work to do in the background to integrate Realtime into VIP’s systems. Fortunately, since VIP acquired Realtime in 2006 a lot of the systems that the firms used were the same, but it was still a huge amount of work for our finance and IT team – credit to them as it has gone well.

How have vendors and customers reacted to the news?
They’ve been positive and excited about the opportunities that the merger will bring. They see what we’re trying to achieve – providing customers with a strong components distributor and providing vendors with an easy route to market.

What’s the vision for this new VIP?
Our vision is to become the dominant components and PC gaming distributor in the UK.

Also, we talk very much about two ‘Fs’, flexibility and focus. Flexibility to deliver what our vendors and customers need and focus in terms of the PC components and gaming market.

Everyone knows the PC components sector is a challenging market, but this is what we’ve been doing for 20 years.

While some people are moving away from components, we expect to get stronger. With our portfolio, which has two combined businesses, and with the customers from those two businesses, that will give us a very strong position.

There’s a huge opportunity for us. VIP and Realtime’s UK turnover is in excess of £100 million already and there’s scope to grow even in a tough, declining market because there’s a lot of business out there that isn’t currently ours.

We want to be focused in this arena and we’re looking at how to get stronger. We’re asking ourselves what else we can offer to customers to help them. There’s plenty of room to grow.

What else has VIP been up to?
We’re excited to reveal that we have a new facility that became operational mid- December. VIP has invested £1.6million into this facility and it gives us an additional 31,000 square feet in logistics space for our existing operation.

It gives us more warehouse capacity obviously, but it is what we will do with the space that is important; the extra capacity will enable us to offer more bespoke deliveries, white label and so on.

It’s a big investment that shows your commitment to the channel.
Exactly! We see the next three-to-five years as a huge opportunity; this is just one demonstration of that.

We’ve spent significant money investing in infrastructure whilst also continuing to invest in people.

As a privately owned distributor, putting that level of investment in when the market is tough speaks volumes for where our commitment lies. We believe in components, in the customers and the vendors we’ve got, and our vision is to become that dominant components and PC gaming distributor.

The extension of our facility is one demonstration of that, and investment in people and IT is another. Certainly as a group we’re hungry to grow.

Why should people work with VIP?
I’d refer back to our commitment to the channel again. People talk about commitment in different ways. For me, our investment in our new facility, as well as everything else, shows vendors and customers alike that we’re committed to the space we’re in.

We believe there’s an opportunity for significant growth. If people are looking for a distribution partner, VIP should be at the top of their list.

You mentioned investing in staff?
We’ve always seen the importance of our staff to the business and that hasn’t changed with the merger. We continue to invest in staff through training, and we’ve continued to take on new employees since the merger. It’s important to us that we take on the right people, so that we can deliver what’s required in the business from a customer and vendor perspective.

People are your business at the end of the day. Having the right systems in place is important too, but having well trained, motivated staff is what counts. We’ve got a good record of staff retention and staff are very important to us.

Is 2013 is set to be a big year for VIP?
We will be announcing lots of exciting new things. We’re still finalising the details, so just watch this space.

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