The balance of buying

DISTREE Events’ executive director Christophe Painvin talks to PCR about the consumer tech channel and which products are proving to be the most successful for retailers throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

DISTREE EMEA is in its 15th year, how has the event evolved?

The principle of the event has always been to gather consumer tech brands to meet with distributors from across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. By offering an innovative and efficient format based on pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings between brands and channel partners, DISTREE EMEA enables brands to launch, build or develop their distribution networks and routes-to-market.

During the last 15 years, we have constantly improved and refined our knowledge of consumer tech distribution channels in EMEA. This enables us to invite the senior executives and buyers from distributors that are most relevant to our exhibitors. It is an event format where everyone benefits, and it allows us to deliver maximum business benefits to everyone in attendance.

We now put a great deal of effort into identifying start-ups and emerging brands that are ready to build distribution channels in EMEA. We make it simple for them to identify the distributors that are right for them and meet them in one place at one time – that’s a huge advantage and cost saving for them. For the distributors, it is a chance for them to see the latest innovations in consumer tech and identify new brands they wish to add to their portfolio.

The event this year will introduce new zones in ICT, gaming, mobile and smart tech. Why these zones? 

We have created these zones to reflect structural changes occurring in the EMEA distribution landscape. We are seeing an increasing number of consumer tech distributors start to specialise and actively position themselves as country or regional experts in one or more of those four distinct categories.

DISTREE EMEA is committed to covering the full range of consumer technology products sold through volume channels. Much of the product innovation that is currently happening is centred around gaming, mobile and smart technology, this is where we are seeing an influx of new brands looking to start building channel reach throughout EMEA.

A recent DISTREE survey shows there is a strong interest in gaming products and accessories – why do you think this is the case?

The market for gaming products and accessories is growing rapidly and is also a category that has the potential to offer strong margins for distributors. Many gamers have high levels of disposable income and are prepared to pay for premium products. This translates into margin potential for both distributors and retailers. When you consider the excitement that is building around virtual reality (VR), it is no surprise that distributors are looking closely at gaming in 2017.

Accessories remains one of the most vibrant and innovative categories. There is huge choice and there are hundreds of brands vying for position. Many accessories have now morphed from functional products to fashion products – and again that can be a boost for margins. The challenge for distributors is to identify accessory brands with real potential, secure the distribution rights and position the brands correctly in their markets. 

How is the consumer market across EMEA channels driving demand for ICT products?

Technology is becoming more widespread in our everyday lives and we’re now talking about personal devices such as smartphones that many consumers view as essential. With the emergence of smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) we’re seeing thousands of new use case scenarios for technology – in many cases for devices that didn’t exist just a few years ago. 

“There has always been a delicate balance of power in the consumer channel between the vendor and the distributor.” 
Christophe Painvin, DISTREE

However, it is important to understand that even as demand for ICT and consumer technology products grows, the price points will continue to fall – that’s the nature of the industry. Product lifecycles are shortening and that means that building effective channels quickly and efficiently for new products is more important than ever.

Are buyers in the channel in a stronger position than they were five years ago?

There has always been a delicate balance of power in the consumer tech channel between the vendor and the distributor. If you’re a vendor with a hugely popular product that has massive consumer demand and offers a decent channel margin, you’re going to be inundated with distributors wanting to work with you. If you’re a major distributor with huge channel reach, you will have many brands wanting to tap into that and may hold the upper hand. 

This is why the consumer tech channel is so exciting right now. A company that is a consumer tech start-up today could have the next ‘must have’ product and become a unicorn in a few years’ time. The trick for distributors is spotting these companies early, picking up the channel rights and realising their potential. That’s something that emerging distributors can be particularly good at because they are agile and can make decisions quickly.

Another issue to consider is the rise of crowdfunding and global e-tailers, meaning that consumers can access and purchase new products very early on – even before a distributor has been appointed in their market. 

The rules are changing in the consumer tech channel. The traditional vendor-distributor-retailer-consumer channel is constantly being reworked and re-engineered. Everyone needs to adapt and find their perfect role in this very exciting and rapidly evolving environment.

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