BHETA comment: Dependable service & digitisation in the tools market

How does cutting-edge technology fit into a market based on quality and dependable service? BHETA Home Enhancement Director Paul Grinsell shares his views…

Selling tools is probably not viewed as one of the most go-ahead markets. Tools are, after all, things we’ve always needed rather than an optional indulgence so experimenting with the tried and tested ways of buying and selling has never seemed necessary or appealing. It’s a market where predictable quality and dependable service really are essential.

So, it’s been interesting in the last few weeks to see what’s new and whether there really is anything to be said for looking afresh at what and how we buy and sell. In March, the ‘Internationale Eisenwarenmesse’, the leading global trade fair for the hardware industry, took place. It is held every two years in Cologne and having returned to the UK from ‘walking the halls’, I can report crowded aisles full of 47,000 trade visitors and a stimulating event programme. Tools are one of four main areas of interest and one of the most obvious trends was digitalisation from cordless and  charging commonality to smart home technology to 3D printing, as well as the role of digital in attracting customers and converting interest into sales.

Not every new product and new technique is immediately suitable for every UK tool business, but denying its existence is not the answer either. Shortly after returning to the UK, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA) held one of its many supplier forums with one of the guest companies being Toolstation. Not generally cited as one of the leading tool retailers, Toolstation with its targeting of professional users and to a lesser extent seasoned DIYers is nevertheless one of the fastest growing.

I mention Toolstation because its phenomenal growth seems to me to be based squarely on an appreciation of those traditionally vital qualities of precise performance, reliable quality, and convenient, efficient service with an appreciation of the latest in digital technology to communicate that proposition to its target customers. Its use of customer data to understand how best to reach them through everything from newspapers and radio to social media and web browsing and how that changes literally through every hour of the day is revelatory.

I do not imagine that the core values involved in selecting, buying, and using the tools of the trade will ever really change, but that should not mean the industry not engaging with innovative products and cutting-edge technology. Used well, its impact can increase sales.

BHETA, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association is an organisation for manufacturers, suppliers and distributors in the DIY, housewares, garden and home improvement markets. For more information about BHETA membership call 0121 237 1130.

Previous BHETA columns for Torque:

This article was originally published in the April 2018 edition of Torque Magazine. Read the full magazine online here or subscribe for free