Off the shelf needn’t be average
Andy Douglas, Managing Director, Timeguard Ltd
The same things always happen when a technology has become the norm: competitors pile in, it’s easy to get hold of products ‘off the shelf’, the customers begin to assume that they are all the same, the price wars rage and your margins suffer. All our core product ranges of LED lighting, PIR and presence detectors, outdoor power and time controller are classic examples. We keep ahead – and we help you to avoid becoming a bargain basement – with constant innovation and improvement.
Now, every salesman will come to you with some ‘unique’ feature. How do you choose what to stock? What will your customers buy in to?
Real innovation is not that easy – and I speak as a serial innovator. At Timeguard, we always have something genuinely new in the pipeline for our ranges of lighting, time, safety and climate control. It is a strategy that has proved to be good business over the years because our customer base is made up of installers who are always looking for a quicker or better way of doing the job. They keep my keen and hungry R&D team busy.
But what is innovation? Do take the use of the word unique with a pinch of salt? I say this because a lot of ’brand new features’ are cosmetic tweaks. The really good ideas, real change under the bonnet, are rare. They typically get copied within the year, so base logic dictates that in the end choice just comes down to price, and the firms like mine behind branded goods have no long-term future, or does it? Well, that’s proving not the case – so what’s going on?
LED lighting is ubiquitous and instant brightness and miniscule electricity bills are now taken for granted. LED floods are everywhere. Now people want something different, and radical new designs like our NIGHTeye range of compact floodlights, now even offering hidden detectors, or the Coastal range designed to avoid those nasty rust marks you see running down walls, deliver.
It’s simply not enough just to pop a few diodes into an old-style casing and say it’s innovation. The conceptual leap that took us from the old halogen casings to NIGHTeye was more than skin deep. For example, our engineers had to completely rethink heat dissipation.
Time is money: easy installation is important. Look out for well thought-out wiring patterns that will make all the difference when installers are up a ladder. These seemingly more-mundane aspects of innovation are sure signs that designers have gone way beyond cosmetic tweaks. They are the details that keep installers coming back for more.
Caveat emptor - buyer beware. If it’s not got an extended guarantee, few reputable installers will go near it these days. With review and references sites like Rated People, Which? Trusted Traders and the Streetlife online communities popping up, they can’t afford to get it wrong. Your reputation for stock choices are important to winning their trust and encouraging them to try something that’s different and probably more profitable for everyone involved.
This article first appeared in Professional Electricians Wholesaler, Spring 2018.