Brett Smyth, general manager EMEA at IDEAL Industries, the specialist in tools and accessories for the electrical sector, discusses the need for the electrical supply chain to provide convenience and reliability for electricians. Electrical wholesalers play an important role in ensuring that electricians have the right products on site when they need them.

It’s a role that goes far beyond being a place to buy: wholesalers are also a service provider that is available for electricians to seek advice, gain information about new products and help them get the best price for what they need. For all these reasons, IDEAL Industries works closely with electrical wholesalers; from the larger players and buying groups, right through to smaller independents. But both wholesalers and manufacturers like IDEAL Industries must remain mindful that our main role is to ensure that electricians have access to the right products as quickly as possible, as and when they need them. That’s not just true of the smaller contractors and sole traders, who often need to buy in smaller quantities as the project progresses and they discover what they need; it’s also true for the larger contractors who may need to top up on supplies urgently, as the programme or the scope of work changes.

One of the key elements of our commercial strategy at IDEAL Industries is engagement with contractors to understand their pressure and pain points so that we can develop new approaches to help address them. It’s clear from the conversations we have been having with contractors that the flexibility of a multi-channel supply chain is very much in demand, which is why IDEAL Industries has invested in developing new routes to market, alongside the traditional wholesaler supply chain.


Supply and demand – what’s changed?

Even before the pandemic, we were already starting to see a shift in procurement practices, with contractors not only shopping around to get the best deal but also using trade counters alongside specialist electrical wholesalers. The disruption to supply chains, sites and construction programmes brought about by COVID has amplified this trend. Now we have a situation where electrical contractors need to work more flexibility than ever, in terms of both programme delivery and procurement, as they tackle catch-up projects, rapid starts on site and fast-track schedules, alongside continuing supply chain, cost uncertainty and lead time challenges. The lead time and supply chain issues that we have seen in the electrical sector over the past couple of years are being echoed across the construction industry. As a consequence, programmes often have to be flexible enough to be delivered around the materials and skills available, knocking procurement out of kilter and leaving contractors with an urgent need to get materials to site.


Developing a multi-channel approach

It is for these reasons that IDEAL Industries has decided to develop a presence in the retail channel, alongside our wholesaler partnerships and relationships with trade counters such as Screwfix. We have recently completed a trial with a major DIY and construction trades retailer, prior to a full roll out across their national store network. When this happens, it will provide a convenient option for picking up products on the way to or from site, or during the working day, seven days a week, on a grab-and-go basis. Electricians will be able choose to find the IDEAL Industries products they need in store or order them online for click and collect, and can either shop as a retail customer or with a business account.


Tailored range

Our new retail offering has been developed in partnership with the retailer over the past 18 months. It has involved market research to understand what electricians need from an electrical accessories manufacturer through the retail channel, aiding the development of pack sizes and formats for IDEAL Industries products that are specific and exclusive to our new retail offering. This retail range includes IDEAL Industries wire termination connectors and our FT-45 RJ45 data termination system, which supports the rise in smart tech installations. To ensure that the grab-and-go range is robust enough for both the retail environment and site, and suitable for easy product selection, we have re-shored our packaging manufacturing to the UK and invested in new equipment to underpin excellent availability of the new pack sizes. The shelf ready packaging (SRP) packs are available in a variety of sizes for maximum flexibility.


Supporting contractors

We operate in a competitive market and a changing world. At IDEAL Industries, we are an agile business that is adapting to this evolving landscape by taking all opportunities to develop sales channels and brand loyalty and providing a variety of procurement options for contractors.