A look at Distrelec’s own brand journey in the distribution industry
In this interview, Paige West speaks to Gemma Squire, Own Brand Manager at Distrelec, to find out more about Distrelec’s own brand RND launched in 2016.
Paige West: Distrelec’s own brand RND is nearly celebrating its 7th anniversary. Let’s start at the beginning and understand how the RND product portfolio and its 5 sub-brands came about. Where did it start?
Gemma Squire: It pretty much started as a bit of an idea on gaining more brand awareness by filling obvious gaps – in our own portfolio, and also gaps left by the competition. We thought: “Why not launch our own brand?”. So back in 2016 we got a small team into place, and right from the get-go, we started with RND Cable, RND Lab, RND Components and RND Connect. We launched RND Power shortly afterwards. The idea behind each sub-brand was to complement our existing ranges and give our portfolio a bit of width and breadth. With RND Cable for example, we started off with accessories and consumables like cable glands and cable ties, and then progressively added cable tie tensioning tools and cable cutters. Before we knew it, we had a generous range of cabling products. We went through the same process for the other ones. RND Lab is probably the most demanding albeit exciting area for us. Not only are we providing the tools and the workbench equipment for our customers, we're also tapping into the benchtop power supply and accessories. RND Components is our most successful brand to date, with semiconductors and enclosures being particularly sought after by our customers. And then we have RND Connect, a substantial offering with thousands of SKUs, and they just keep coming. RND Power was launched about six months after the other sub-brands. It is the line we’ve had to work hardest on, in the light of regulations, norms and compliance.
Overall, we have over ten thousand individual lines that come from all around the world, from tiny components such as resistors, to huge reels of industrial cable, complex measurement devices, tools, soldering, ESD – all sitting in our warehouses in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Paige: As a distributor launching its own brand, what are the challenges of bringing your own products to market when you've already got people on your line card that do the same thing?
Gemma: We're very conscious that we at Distrelec work with some very big strategic partners which draw the customer to us. However, RND is not here to take any of that share. There's a need for a distributor brand for everything, especially as the opening price point product. We find launching our own brand has been attracting higher levels of custom and generating more traffic to our websites, which benefits everyone. It was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but we are confident we have now got to a stage where RND can exist in its own right without actually damaging any of the growth these renowned vendors have had through Distrelec customers.
Paige: Is the idea behind the RND brand purely to provide that opening price point? Engineers are typically very sceptical about low prices, how do you make sure the quality is up to standard and it's not just a cheap product?
Gemma: We understand the purse strings are tight around the world at the moment, and indeed, we’ve captured additional market shares by launching price-led ranges. We serve areas from field service to manufacturing, and I think our customers find that RND is a great vehicle to help manage spending. That being said, it’s always been in the brand’s DNA to provide a product that’s not only reliable, but also compliant and ethically sourced. We're not just chasing the pennies, trying to get the sales, but we want to make sure that what we bring in is right. We’ve got a great compliance team, which is very focused on norms and certifications, and we’ve got a stringent supplier on-boarding process and strict quality controls in place.
Paige: Now what are the challenges of sourcing all these products? COVID has obviously been and still is an ongoing trial, for instance in China. Is that a struggle for you?
Gemma: We’re all seeing instabilities in the sourcing, costs and supply chain. We overcome this by being extremely smart and selective in our sourcing. So rather than just leaving ourselves at the mercy of unpredictable production times, we’ve decided to forward order a lot, which was a brave decision to take as Covid struck in March 2020, and no one had a clue how long these lockdowns would last for. We’ve also taken Chinese New Year into consideration very early in the year. This month we're seeing about 95% stock availability on most of our products, which is not a bad place to be in at this time of year, so we can say our decisions are paying off. The world is still in a very different place to what it was 2-3 years ago, but we ensure we adapt, and flex to continue to meet the demands of our customers, whatever industry they are in.
Finally, we've also opened up our arms to factories and suppliers closer to home. We're looking at the UK, we're looking at Switzerland, we're looking all over Europe for other products that we can source more locally. Localising supply chains represents a tremendous opportunity to help the environment.
Paige: What sort of customer feedback do you get from people who've bought RND products?
Gemma: We’ve got several tools in place to encourage RND users to leave their feedback with us, and we scrutinise those reviews on a regular basis. Good feedback is always great to read, but we are very focused on constructive comments as well. As an example, we’ve improved our packaging on several items following advice left in someone’s feedback. So, although it's great to see the positive reviews, we also take constructive criticism very well, and we act on it wherever possible.
Paige: Looking ahead for 2023, what are the key trade shows for RND?
Gemma: We are definitely going back to Embedded World in 2023! The 2022 edition was very successful for us, not only for Distrelec but for RND as well. Embedded technologies and the IoT are areas that we want to focus on looking ahead.
Paige: When it comes to the RND product lines, is there anything new that you're planning to bring to market next year?
Gemma: In an ideal world, I'd like a team of 50 product managers and 16 assistants, and we'd look at absolutely everything! But because we are so young, there are so many opportunities for us, so we need to be strategic about this. There are a few key areas that we really want to project ourselves into next year. We’ve already mentioned IoT and Embedded, the other big one for us is EV charging, so we’ll be looking at products to complement our existing ranges. In parallel, we will continue to source new components, tools, measurement and soldering products, and we’ve also had a dedicated Automation CPM (Certified Product Manager) join the team, so we can expect further exciting developments to the automation range.
Paige: Distrelec is committed to empowering students and institutions, how does RND support the engineers of tomorrow?
Gemma: We provide education discounts, offered for verified institutions on selected brands, as well as specially picked starter kits to empower students. Students and institutions alike can benefit from the guides and articles on our KnowHow hub and start designing with the help of our RND tools. Part of our strategy next year is to provide them with more – an RND Education Hub, with added educational content and videos. We really live to our Distrelec values – Empower, One Team, Customer First and Grow.