The Cutting Room: New age of distribution


What are we to make of the recent successes of Brightpoint, Kondor and Shebang? Two years ago, even one, none of them would’ve been tieing up the kinds of deals they are now.

We probably discussed this shifting landscape here when Shebang secured a contract with Tesco from Dextra, which has had its own troubles this year.

But this issue’s stories of Kondor and Shebang, and Brightpoint’s recent success in Nokia’s distribution review, should give us pause to reflect again on these new challenger brands.

Brightpoint’s UK boss Hugh Roper (pictured) won the most from the sale of the Hugh Symons airtime business to Carphone in 2005.

The deal was supposed to set the retailer up as a player of note in the dealer channel; to give it monopolistic control of everything in UK mobile sales, bar its network and multiple rivals on the high street, which it overshadows anyway.

In the end, Roper’s curious Hugh Symons Telecom sideline business, spun out of the old Hugh Symons firm as a specialist IT and business kit distributor, has proved the more prescient concern.

While Carphone has grown ambivalent, arguably, to its channel venture, Brightpoint noted how Roper’s new-age distributor tied in with the interests of the converging dealer market.

Data Select looked the one for a long time; Danish giant Dangaard, before merging with Brightpoint, had looked over its books.

But the decision to move for Hugh Symons now looks shrewd indeed.

Its Nokia B2B contract is a major win – and a major blow to the likes of Brightstar, as well as IT distributor Ingram Micro, which is harbouring ambitions to make a play in new business convergence mobility, and Middle East player i2, which has strong links with Nokia overseas and had made no secret of its plan to rumble the UK market.

Brightpoint GB has some choice accounts, then. Nokia remains global leader, and the long-established maker of superior business phones. HTC, its other big account, has come from nowhere to establish itself as the go-to brand for innovative new products; the Android powered G1 is testament to that.

Kondor is now described by many as the ‘new Dextra’, insofar as it appears to be hoovering up sizeable accessories and prepay accounts.

It has turned a corner. It has come out of years of prudent financial management to appoint well-known and experienced new business executives – notably Simon Hassell from Dextra – and make a go of the grocery and non-specialist sectors.

It has pounced, and come out of itself, as rivals have looked at ways to redefine their proposition in a markedly changed sales channel.

Shebang has ploughed its own distinct furrow, and waited for the industry to catch up with its vision.

Its Sellfone PoS system was founder Iain Humphrey’s cleverest move, enabling his customers utter transparency on the shop floor – sales, staff and store performance, orders and so on.

It also affords his proposition ‘stickiness’, as the industry describes client relations that are more trouble to change than to stay with.

Tesco cottoned on, and Shebang picked up a genuine distribution headliner. Its move to premises six times the size of its old site in Daventry reveals its ambition for next year.