After he left Shebang Logistics Solutions, Jolyon Bennett decided the accessories business needed some magic juice
The mobile accessory market has been undergoing something of a renaissance in the past 12-18 months.
In 2012, fuelled by the growth of costly devices, accessories sales peaked at more than £20 billion. By 2017, that figure is expected to almost double.
The rise has, perhaps unsurprisingly, sparked the formation of a number of accessory brands each wanting to take their own slice of the pie.
One such company making it mark is Gusto Telecom Solutions, founded by former Brightstar UK sales director and Shebang Logistics Solutions MD Jolyon Bennett.
Speaking last year – Bennett told Mobile News, who has worked in the mobile space all his professional working life – he wanted to “breath new life” in the space.
“We wanted to differentiate ourselves by getting creative with brands,” said a beaming Bennett during a catch up lunch in London last month. “They [accessories] had to be interesting to consumers, taking something like a traditional mobile phone charger and making it that much more appealing.
“Basically, I wanted to make mobile phone accessories a bit more interesting.”
So far, so good.
Eighteen months on, it appears Bennett and Gusto are doing just that, armed now with a growing portfolio of products – stretching across chargers, back up battery cases, to Bluetooth speakers.
The first to launch was its Juice brand – which Bennett describes as the driving force behind the firm’s first year.
The Juice brand name is effectively a play on words – with products centred around charging.
However, the products are packaged in cardboard drinks cartons (see pictures) with the strap line: ‘Juice for your mobile’ – allowing it to stand out from the crowd.
“Juice has been incredibly useful for us,” he says. “There is no way we would have been able to open all of these accounts and made it into as many retailers if we didn’t have a killer product range.
“Having the design, packaging and branding is one thing, but executing the strategy is a completely different thing. With one retailer, we trialled Juice next to normal chargers packaged in boring heat sealed plastic, and Juice sold twice as many at the same price point. The little differences count.”
Retailers have been quick to support the brand too. Juice chargers are currently available in more than 2,000 stores across the UK, with retailers DSGi, O2, Carphone Warehouse, Sainsbury’s, Staples, Fonehouse and Channel Islands reseller Jersey Telecom listed.
Bennett jokes the reason he has managed to get all these retailers on board in the first year is because anyone that knows him will say it’s because he’s the best salesperson in telecoms.
He has the CV to back that up- showing 17 years of experience in the industry, and in that time has held a number of sales director and management roles at leading hardware distributors including Unique Distribution, Brightstar and Shebang Technologies Group.
Joking aside, he claims he didn’t have to do an awful lot to convince them as the product did most of the work for him.
“The product sells itself. All of these retailers have lots of the same products brought to them, but they are regurgitated ideas. The product and approach is fresh, and I hope the way that we are doing business with people is of a similar style.
“I’ve heard so much rubbish in the sales and distribution markets over the years. You can’t trust 95 per cent of the people you come across in the mobile channel. So I’m trying to make my business as honest and straightforward as possible so people can enjoy working with us and have fun along the way.”
Despite the success Gusto has enjoyed with Juice over the past year, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the company in its early weeks in business.
Bennett reveals two major distributors had both immediately rejected the idea of distributing the Juice cartons when he was attempting to get partners on board – including his previous employer.
“I went to Iain Humphrey (Shebang Technologies Group MD) with the idea and he rejected it, saying it would never work. I also approached Data Select and when I showed them the carton, they said retailers would never take Juice as it was too bulky.
“A lot of people were doubting what I was trying to do but I’m ecstatic that I have realised my ambition. I have learnt a lot of things from some of the industry’s biggest names, including (the late) Angus Dawe, Rod Millar and Iain Humphrey, and that has definitely helped me.”
Gusto has since added ‘Moon Juice’ to its product portfolio, giving John Lewis a one month exclusive on it. They went on sale at the retailer this month, priced at £19.99.
The chargers, which come with the tag line ‘Juice for your Galaxy’ and are compatible with all Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets. They will come packaged in 1.5 pint cartons, as opposed to the one pint cartons regular Juice chargers are packaged in. This is due to the higher power output of five volts needed to charge the tablets.
Gusto is more than just about mobile phone chargers.
In April, Gusto released the Juice Cube initially exclusively with John Lewis.
Last month, it went on sale at O2 UK, and is also currently stocked by Carphone Warehouse and O2 in Ireland.
The Juice Cube is charged using a mains adapter and provides emergency backup power for handsets and portable games consoles. It is compatible with iPhones and iPads, BlackBerry, HTC, LG, Nokia, Samsung and Sony devices, coming with a USB cable and eight universal connectors.
The Bluetooth Sound Square also went on sale at John Lewis at the same time. It can be charged in two hours, and enables music to be played from a handset at a distance of up to 10 metres. It provides six hours of playback on Bluetooth and 10 hours through a USB cable, and is compatible with Apple iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch, as well as the Samsung Galaxy device range.
Bennett feels the emergency mobile charging market is relatively untapped and where many manufacturers have failed. Gusto, he claims, isn’t falling into the same trap.
“Nobody has done emergency power well enough. Many retailers I have spoken to have all tried selling the products but have had little success in doing so, because emergency power is not very attractive. The market is definitely there.
“Emergency power is really useful but the use on its own isn’t enough to make consumers want it. The products have to be desirable and something they don’t feel ashamed of.
“There are companies out there offering emergency power products that are black, slab-like boxes, but they are really dull. The Juice Cube is packaged and designed so that it is appealing. We are selling tens of thousands of them every month.”
Full article in Mobile News issue 552 (November 18, 2013).
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