Exhibitor interview: Damien Connolly, sales director, Trade Mouldings Distribution
Q: How’s business compared with last year?
A: Business is up on last year and over the past few years we have experienced double-digit growth. Our business has continued to expand and over the past two years we have move premises of all our distribution centres and trade counters in Rochdale, Cookstown, and Dublin to enable us to stock more ranges and offer a quicker more complete product offer.
Q: How do you view the health of the UK KBB market? In what ways could it improve and how can the industry improve it?
A: We service predominantly the independent sector, which is under pressure from the sheds and the multiples. Those independents that keep themselves up-to-date with the latest developments and products, have good design and product knowledge, are established in an area and give top service, are doing well.
It will always be difficult to compete on price with some of the offers from the sheds, but by demonstrating how their offer differs and the full-service package they offer, orders are often gained not on price alone. As a supplier, we need to back our customers up with the tools to keep them winning orders by having a relevant, up-to-date product offer, excellent service and the opportunity to offer bespoke solutions the multiples can’t match.
Q: How do you think the relationship between supplier and customer is changing?
A: From a supply side, lead times are decreasing and bespoke solutions are becoming more popular, both by colour and special size options. Customers are being driven to offer more than just of-the-shelf items, with many designs being truly bespoke. As customers demand this choice, suppliers have to react to fulfil what the market requires.
Q: What are the main challenges you will face as a business this year and how will you overcome these?
A: The Brexit situation is obviously still on the horizon and hopefully can be resolved as we progress through the year. The process is leading to currency swings and, with many raw materials and finished goods being sourced on the continent and further afield, it can lead to difficulties on price stability and lead times. We have the advantage that we manufacture many of our ranges in the UK, thereby avoiding some of the currency fluctuations and can control the stock levels we hold. We also export to the Irish market and trade in euros in that market, so can offset some of the exchange costs.