Why buying groups are valuable to retailers

Director of performance system builder Utopia Computers, Craig Hume, responds to the recent criticism of buying groups and trade bodies made by PCR’s Counter Insurgent…

When my dad started Utopia many years ago, working out what margins we should be aiming to make and what products we thought we should sell was very much guesswork. Fortunately, he had a good business mind and Utopia thrived. I was always keen to find ways to inspire us and allow Utopia to grow faster.

As part of this effort to promote growth I remember attending a networking event put on by the then Technology Channel Association, or TCA. As I entered the hotel, and saw a room full of my competitors looking back at me, I started to doubt myself and felt unsure how this trip was going to help Utopia.

The meeting had a couple of vendors, one promoting blank media, relatively new at the time, and the other talking of the opportunities around a certain yellow and black anti-virus product. I remember thinking that this wasn’t really going to help me take Utopia to the next level, but felt comfort in knowing that Utopia was already aware of these markets and products. It was afterwards when the retailers sat down and had dinner together that things really started to get exciting. I was blown away by the openness of their answers to my questions. I certainly had more than one “so that’s how you do it” moment.

My day spent away from the store went on to pay dividends with the ideas and techniques I brought back.

In a recent PCR Counter Insurgent article one retailer questioned the value of the UK’s current trade associations, claiming that they don’t offer true value or understand retailers. They went on to imply that these associations simply try to push retailers into new fads. Being a member of Network Group for many years now, I guess it’s obvious to anyone that knows me that I would argue this simply isn’t true.

While the Network Group does bring new trends and encourages members to consider options to create profitable revenue streams from managed services and the like, you will often find Network Group retailers talking about much more down to earth subjects, like what prices to charge for certain services, as well as staff retention and even how to repair common PC problems more efficiently. It’s the collaborative nature of the group that fills me with confidence.

While not every group is for every retailer, I would challenge the retailer who wrote the piece to do more than simply talk to the various trade bodies at events, I would ask him or her to attend some meetings and see what actually goes on. They mentioned trade bodies selling square wheels, but I would suggest that it’s retailers not networking with other retailers are trying to reinvent the wheel. By not learning from each other they all risk making the same mistakes. Our industry moves faster than any other I know. Without innovation and amazing service I would suggest any IT retailer would struggle.

Craig Hume is director of Utopia Computers and retail director of Network Group.


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