Company profile: Realtime Distribution - PC Retail

Company profile: Realtime Distribution

PCR chats to founder and MD Mark Reed
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How did Realtime Distribution start out in business?

The business was established in September 1989, but in truth this was as Component Resources. I started Realtime when I was 18 in 1994. While the two companies operated separately they shared a warehouse and much of the staff. In 2001 the two businesses merged as one and retained the Realtime brand, as that was the strongest at the time. In 2003 I purchased the whole business.

How has the company evolved over the years?

In the early nineties it was established as a focused distributor, but back then it was on 486 motherboards, SIMM memory and we were getting into this exciting new market called multimedia – speakers and video on your PC, to you and I.

As time went on we became focused and strong with brands such as Matrox, 3DFX, QDI motherboards and ATI graphics, and we were Europe’s top distributor for IBM 686 processors. For the past 20 years many of the customers have stayed the same, but we do see that starting to change now with more traditional retailers looking to Realtime for products.

In the early nineties there was far more of a trading mentality and price was paramount, especially due to the high ASP of products. While today price is still the most important factor, service is being valued more than it ever has. For this reason companies like Realtime are able to increase business on the strengths of this. That service could be delivery or RMA, but it certainly starts with good, knowledgeable account management.

What would you say is the most successful area of your business?

Realtime has steered clear of products that are overcommoditised, and for the past eight years we have focused on enthusiast quality products. This started with brands such as ATI, Corsair and 3DFX but over time we’ve added BFG, Sapphire and in the past three years Sennheiser, Razer, Creative and Activision-Blizzard.

This strategy has developed from enthusiast products for PC to those specifically for PC gamers, and we’re leading into adding consoles to that master plan. This has resulted in a solid business and dominance in our areas of focus.

What do you have to offer retailers compared to your competitors?

We have three dedicated teams that focus on accounts, which have very different processes and skills depending on the type of business. For example, large retail or e-tail will need a completely bespoke set of processes and procedures and require very different people involved in the management of them. For many of our retail and e-tail customers, the emphasis is looking for products that they can differentiate themselves on to ensure they can make margin in a very competitive marketplace.

What are Realtime’s plans for the UK specifically?

Realtime is growing its customer base into High Street retail and supermarkets, as this will leverage our strengths in the ever-expanding gaming market. Realtime will continue to bring to market new products and brands that are successful in other regions around Europe and US, but have not established in the UK.

Also, we are passionate about bringing products that allow our customers to make a good margin. As just one example, we have invested in promoting Dust-Off, professional screen and peripheral cleaning products. With this brand a retailer can make more on a £10 cleaning product than on a £90 CPU. Realtime has to raise its game in its internet offering for its distribution partners and there are certain other areas of our business where we can strive to differentiate ourselves from our competition with service.

Are there any plans for expansion outside the country?

We have a plan marked out for the next three years on the development of our sales. While there is lots to do in the UK, we will look at opportunities in Europe.

Do you think business is picking up after the recession?

It is for us! The demographic for the products we distribute is 16 to 30-yearolds who play games a lot. However, I would not be as confident if our business relied on more commodity products, such as notebooks.

Where do you see yourselves in five years’ time?

I try not to have more than a three-year plan, and that is to keep doing what I am doing. The business is as exciting as it ever has been for Realtime and as its founder it is my passion in seeing it continue to grow at its current pace.

COMPANY FACTS:

*
Headquartered in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
*The Realtime brand was founded by an 18-year-old Mark Reed in 1994.
*The present company was created via a 2001 merger with Component Resources, which has been in operation for over 20 years.
*Reed bought the whole business in 2001.
*Distributes to High Street retail, independent retailers and UK e-tailers.
*Has partnerships with leading brands including ATI, Corsair, 3DFX, BFG, Sapphire, Sennheiser, Creative and Activision-Blizzard.

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