One dealer last week described the predicament for those at the bottom of the food chain. He looked at the floor and, like an old lady feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square, pretended to throw peanuts to a flock of dealers at his feet, retreating from them all the time.
After five short steps, he looked up, raised his hands, and said, “Sorry dealers, no more peanuts”.
The point is dealers, like nodding pigeons after a handout, are at the mercy of the networks. Even if a network produces a big bag of cashew nuts suddenly, as Orange has done recently with its business commissions, it won’t last. There are few long-term assurances and many long-term insecurities.
It is the kind of analogy most distributors, one step closer to the network
paymaster, would recognise, particularly during periods of slim commissions in the consumer sector.
But in Borehamwood, Avenir Telecom is enjoying its moment in the sun, with the “best network relations we have ever had”. Managing director Tanny Price reckons the future is more certain now than it has ever been. It is what it is, she says.
“There will always be more peanuts. If you take emotion out of it, it is just a supply chain, and there will always be supply and demand. As a distributor, we are here to bring network products and services to the channel for sale to the end user.
“Yes, sometimes the networks change the goalposts, but you can’t just sit there and think, well hang on, we can’t accept that. Because that’s what distribution is all about. You have to twist and turn all the time. And if you’re quick enough, even to add your own spin, then you can thrive. That’s the way.”
Avenir hosted 45 dealerships at its annual data day at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire last month. Delegates ranged from relative novices in the data field to old hands, used to writing tailored data applications for mobile customers, to new entrants in mobile, drafted in from different trade sectors on the back of wireless convergence technology.
The mix reflected Avenir’s shifting dealer base, since it shut its fulfilment business at the end of last year and pared down its consumer functions, and, to an extent, the emerging dealer market since the networks have tightened the screws on consumer sales.
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