Fixings and accessories may not be seen as the most glamorous segment of the market, yet such products are a vital commodity that is required across all trades. And whilst the traditional boxed packaging of screws, nails and anchors tends to reflect their practical applications it often does little for shelf appeal — or provide a chance for merchants to add margin. PBM spoke with TI Midwood (TIMco) to discuss the development of its new TIMbag packaging and why it is increasingly important to help merchants with products that “sell themselves”.
In these uncertain times, where many companies have downsized and been unable to consider investment in new facilities, TIMco has taken an extremely proactive approach to trading. Experiencing 58% growth over the last two years, the supplier of fixings and power tools accessories has recently expanded its headquarters near Nantwich, Cheshire constructing a 2,000m2 logistics centre which was completed last year.
This has allowed the company to dramatically increase its stock holding capabilities and extend its product range, whilst also providing a new, modern environment for its staff and expanded product testing facilities.
With the company working hard to attain a strong market position, it has continually placed significance in reflecting upon what it can do as a supplier to support its customers. Product quality is obviously one key consideration, with the recent achievement of CE approval for its Drywall Screws highlighting its desire to offer products of the highest standards.
Whilst CE Marking is not mandatory — yet — in the UK, it affirms that the range conforms to stringent European Standards and with the Building Regulations stating that products used in construction projects must be fit for the purpose they are intended, such accreditation clearly helps to prove this. The firm asserts there are positive implications for merchant stockists, offering added reassurance to their own customers, and TIMco is looking to expand its ranged of CE marked products throughout 2012.
A second key criterion is the importance of effective communication with merchants, developing relationships that benefit of both parties. Addressing this issue, Sales and Marketing Director, Simon Midwood, was keen to assert to PBM that: “Our business is built on ‘one to one’ relationships. We treat every customer as an individual and we respect and understand the culture of each of our customers’ businesses.”
In taking time to understand the individual needs of its merchant customers, Simon wants TIMco to look out for a customer’s “business interest” — rather than simply just taking their “business” — in a philosophy based around making its products as easy for merchants to order, stock and sell as possible.
The distributor feels it has made a significant move in supporting merchants with the development and release of new ‘TIMbag’ packaging for its screws and fixings products. When thinking about the presence of screws and fixings within merchant branches, the image of the lined-up stacks of practically identical cardboard boxes instantly comes to mind. Until recently many of TIMco’s products followed suit with this tradition, albeit with a number of recent initiatives to add additional colours and design to increase on-shelf presence.
However, with the development of the TIMbag concept, the company believes it now has a range that can offer both a pragmatic packaging solution and distinct merchandising appeal. TIMbag is designed to cover many of the problems merchants face with traditional boxes of fixings which are bulky and can be easily damaged, leading to stock loss. Also, if a tradesman wants to see the product before he buys it, the temptation is to just rip the packaging open — often leading to tampered, miss-placed products cluttering displays.
The bags themselves are see-through, re-sealable, and made of durable plastic which protects the products from the elements, ensuring they are easily storable and less likely to be tampered with on shelf. The branding is in bold red, and they feature clear, visible labelling so the products can be identified quickly and easily. All in all, the bags have been designed to present a convenient alternative, where the merchant benefits from presentation that is distinctive, low maintenance and sellable, and their customers gain from a convenient and robust way to transport and maintain their purchase. And all in packaged quantities suitable for the task at hand.
To support the new packaging the company has developed a price banding system which categorises the products on shelf, linking each bag with an ‘alpha’ symbol (e.g. B) which is then cross-referenced to a printed price band on the shelf unit. The price band is bespoke to the individual merchant, and groups bags of a certain size as well as products of a certain utility. This system is designed to make life easier for the merchant as it saves on individually pricing products — and helps prevent the tendency for price confusion amongst customers when products get moved about on labelled shelves (it is essentially similar to the familiar system many retailers use for pricing greetings cards).
The value of space and the waste associated with surplus stock has been another key consideration in the development of TIMbag — an issue the supplier addresses through its ordering service, which runs out of the company’s expanded warehouse which can hold over 6,000 pallets at a time and processes over 1,000 orders a week. Offering next day delivery within the UK and Ireland, the firm has invested extensively in IT systems to support the new facilities, allowing orders to be tracked electronically to provide customers with instant proof of deliveries.
When ordered, the products arrive in separator cartons that hold up to six bags. Each re-order carton contains five TIMbags, so when a merchant has only one left they can re-order the depleted range in and quickly replenish — limiting any need to retain excess stock.
28th May 2012