Having launched a new retail division, the distributor has ambitious plans to grab a greater share of the market. Dominic Sacco asks Tech Data’s retail director Adam Gay about his aims, key selling periods from back-to-school to Black Friday, as well as promising categories such as wearables, ESD and home automation…
How important is the retail sector to Tech Data today?
If you look at where distribution is today, and where Tech Data is, we’re 40 years old and we’ve been in the industry with B2B as our core bread and butter.
We’ve had some really good success over the past 40 years in that channel and our market share is strong as a distributor, but if you want to increase market share in the UK overall and you’re already big in one channel, then trying to grow that even further becomes a real challenge. We’ve got a consumer business that’s been there for the past five years but now we have a lot more focus to grow that. We’re getting bigger in the consumer channel which will a) help us increase our marketshare easier and b) help us support our brands.
You took over Tech Data Retail earlier this year. What do you bring to the role and what’s your strategy going forwards?
I took over the division in January. My role is to own the retail budget and also engage with customers and vendors. I have quite a lot of experience within the retail channel and distribution from working at Exertis. There’s a product marketing director, Mark Glasspool, who I work closely with, and he owns the whole consumer channel from a product perspective.
In terms of our overall strategy, it’s not about becoming the biggest distributor in the UK for retail. It’s about becoming the first choice distributor. It’s about working with our retailers on a strategic or tactical level, and being given that opportunity to try and come up with a solution.
What kind of progress have you made in the first few months?
We’ve been out and met a lot of customers – and a lot who don’t know a huge deal about us. They’ve come away with quite a surprise about what we’ve been able to achieve and manage in the past, and the scale we’ve been able to get to. Since then we’ve got quite a lot of engagement out of the second half of this year with lots of activity planned.
What I’ve learnt over the past three months talking to a lot of the key brands is it’s encouraging us to become a lot stronger in the consumer channel. The key piece for us is market share and supporting our brands in these channels.
Aside from the usual key selling periods such as back to school and peak, is Black Friday becoming more integral to distributors like yourselves? What kind of challenges does it present?
Last year Black Friday was a game changer for us. We’ve had meetings around it over the past eight weeks and are already talking about it.
Black Friday has changed the shape of peak, really. If you look at last year, Black Friday had strong sales in November, then there was a four or five-week lull, then leading up to Christmas it kicked off again.
It’s what we’ve got to get used to now – it’s not going to go away. It’s so successful for these retailers, and I think what you’ll find now is a greater emphasis on that period, as there’s a lot to get right. It requires a lot of planning and resource – it’s about trying to streamline that process and make it as smooth as possible during the period.
What kind of structure do you have in place?
We’ve four verticals within retail: mass merchants, etail, High Street and the catalogue side. Each category will have an account director, the internal team management and then you’ve got the guys that execute against the KPIs on the accounts and deliveries and how stuff is then tracked.
Then we have demand planners within the team as well, who support stock management and make sure we’re supporting both customer and vendor. Each category also has a dedicated business development manager, with support from the account manager.
Which categories are you keeping a close eye on?
Wearable tech is a big push for us – we’ve got heavy investment in that area so we’ll have a lot of focus on that. Then you’ve got home automation coming through. Over the next few years we’ll certainly see that become more of a commodity.
We’ve also got components, networking, print and so on… we’ve got all the right categories and the right brands.
I think the other big push for us is something we’re becoming very strong in: Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) downloads. We’ve got a strong platform and we work with some major retail partners today. If you look at some of the stats, there are certain retailers where 30 per cent of their online sales are now through our infrastructure – and it’s growing. So we have a very big focus there and it’s certainly something I will be pushing hard.