You’ve recently taken up the job of UK MD, a position which has essentially been vacant since Julian Klein left last June. What benefits will the full-time appointment of someone to this position bring to the company and those it works with?
Given that the UK is one of our largest markets, it’s important to have stability in the MD role and I’m very pleased to be back with the UK operation. Since the time of my appointment I’ve been able to pick up on the good work the UK management team have been doing and I look forward to building on it with them, to strengthen Ingram Micro’s position in the market and provide an even higher level of service to our partners.
What specifically will you be looking to bring to the role?
One of my key priorities has been to re-establish strong ties based on personal relationships with our reseller and vendor groups. We have a broad and fantastic set of partners we work with, so getting closer to them and understanding how we can mutually grow our business together will be very important.
By becoming more visible and accessible to the vendor community we can work together to build mutually beneficial partnerships. I also want to focus on specific segments of our business to help improve our overall market share position and to further develop our SMB business, where we have seen solid growth over the recent past and where we continue to receive strong support from the vendor community.
Above all else I will ensure that as a business we are listening to our customers and doing all we can to provide the support required and reflect their feedback in our go-to market strategies.
Johan Vandenbussche, who recently became Ingram Micro’s regional vice president for Benelux and the UK, said that while 2009 was tough, he expects the market as a whole to grow this year, and that analyst predictions were somewhat pessimistic. Is this a view you share?
It is still early in the year and we remain cautiously optimistic. Depending on which report you read, industry analysts are predicting flat to single digit growth in the IT sector compared to last year. However, we’re working hard at Ingram Micro to ensure that in our specific areas of expertise we deliver improved performance, which should lead to growth year on year.
In addition we believe that we are starting to see a return to the focus on distribution from our vendor partners as they realise the value we can add to their supply chain and the reach we can provide into SMB, for example.
The worst of the economic downturn appears to be coming to an end – are there any lessons a corporation as big as Ingram Micro learned from the events?
During times of economic challenges, many large organisations look at ways to save costs and improve efficiency. Ingram Micro was no different in that 2009 was a year of restructuring for us. While that was necessary and served the business well from an efficiency perspective, we became internally focused. 2010 is our year of external re-engagement.
Retailers, in particular credit reliant independent retailers, were hit especially hard. Would you offer any advice to those businesses that were particularly bruised in the recession?
We recognise the importance of delivering credit to the channel and through our own Credit Builder programme have worked hard to identify resellers that can benefit from this added support.
However, many independent retailers have had credit limits altered and they should engage with the credit insurers to try and get their ratings improved, which will allow their suppliers to obtain higher insurance on credit balances offered and provide greater support.
The best way to re-engage with the credit insurers is to meet them face-to-face and provide them with details of the retailer’s trading situation. This should cover details of past results as well as future plans. The insurers will also have details of supplier’s experiences of trading with the retailer, so it is best to be open and honest in discussions with them.
Finally, to strengthen a retailer’s position it may be worth them considering taking their largest supplier, or suppliers, with them to the meeting to support their case. This would be particularly beneficial if the supplier uses the credit insurer for their own credit insurance.
As the world’s biggest IT distributor you’re in an enviable position in the UK and around the world – are you in a mind to wrestle for a bigger market share at this stage, or is it more about maintaining what you have?
We absolutely have an appetite to grow our market share and will look to do so in various parts of our business. I’m pleased to report that we are integrating our recent CCD acquisition well and look forward to further developing our offer in the value space. We’ll be having two trade shows in London this year, from Channel Expo and Retail Vision.
You’ve just announced another of your own unilateral channel events, which attract some of the biggest names in the tech industry – what do your shows offer that is different, and do you consider them trade shows in their own right, able to rival the likes of Channel Expo?
Ingram Micro has always been keen to support the channel by attending the major trade shows and events and in the past by holding our own events. This year, we have a bigger than ever presence at Channel Expo and are proud to be a platinum sponsor of the show.
We were also a sponsor of the Channel Conference last year, which we found very valuable. Later this year we will be presenting our own Showcase again and will be releasing full details of this after Easter. We are delighted to be once again holding our own event, especially one with such a unique and exciting format, and we have had a great reception from vendors and resellers who continue to see value in such an event.
The technology landscape is an interesting place at the moment, with new tech such as 3D and multitouch looking to shake up the way we use computers. What do you think will be the defining factor of 2010 and 2011, product-wise?
In terms of personal computing we continue to see trends around mobility, portability and more lightweight, usable technology, such as smartphones and netbooks and a merging of those technologies in devices.
Consumers in the PC world today can be split into two groups: those that browse, view, store or download a limited amount of data and media and interact by email and social networking sites, and those that have heavier PC usage including data manipulation, gaming, streaming, large file downloads and storage, etc. Multi-touch technology should appeal to the former and with its touch interface could change the way that users want to interact with their PC.
It is important to understand that, part of the success of such devices is also due to the apps that are developed and their ease of use. This could define the success of the portable multi-touch segment. An increase in the use of slate PCs and mobile internet devices could also result in a change in the way that people view media. Will we buy newspapers or download, or will the gaming console market reduce now that users can play games on a ten-inch device? Time will tell.