Interview: Gem

A chat with Gem's new head of business development Philip Munro...
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So you used to work with Alan Sugar. How did that go?

Imagine working in one of the most exciting, innovative business that, at the time, was doubling its profits and market value every year. Being part of that was an amazing experience.

Critics have described Lord Sugar as ‘out of touch’ and his work ethic as a ‘model of bad management’. Others have said he is negative and narrow minded – nonsense! It was the best business grounding one could ask for.

Working at Amstrad was infectious and it got in your blood. You were either there for a day or many years, there was rarely any inbetween.

Gem has taken on a few new product lines – what are they and why are you moving into these areas?

We have taken on a number of new and innovative products over recent weeks. These include a range of batteries from Contour Energy Systems.

Also, we have signed up ASL (Anywhere Speakers Ltd), creators of the Woweeone compact portable speaker.

As you can see we are not focussing on a specific area or category but rather sourcing products that have a point of differential in the market. Watch this space as we have several incredibly exciting product launches soon to be announced.

And what about your Exspect division?

Our own brand Exspect is a very exciting and significant part of our business which we will continue to develop and expand. In addition to our own brand and existing licence agreements, we will continue to explore new future licensing opportunities. The success of the Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi brands has been overwhelming and both have been incredibly well received by our customers. We will continue to work closely with the teams at Ministry of Sound in developing even more exciting products to meet the ever increasing customer demand.

As head of business development, you must be keeping your eye out for the next big thing – what do you think it will be?

Absolutely, I am looking at a number of developing new technologies and exciting, innovative new products but don’t expect me to stake my reputation on stating which will be the next big thing. It is just too difficult to make such predictions.

The markets that we are looking to enter are incredibly competitive and awash with ‘me too’ products. As such it is imperative that we find products which are unique by means of functionality or are design-led thus making them aspirational. These are, however, few and far between.

You cover quite a lot of ground in the UK market with your customer base – what do you get the sense is the biggest problem facing retailers at the moment?

The cost of living soaring with prices increasing for petrol, gas, electricity and food. Consumer confidence is at an all- time low. As such there has been a shift in spending priorities. The question facing retailers is: why should consumers choose to part with their money in their particular store?

Today’s consumers have never been more conscious of price and retailers need to continue to offer value propositions. This is not made easy with the cost of goods rising and in most cases these increases cannot be passed on to the consumer thus causing margin degradation.

Creating leaner organisational infrastructures has been a central theme over the last couple of years and this should continue to be a central focus for all retailers.

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