Interview: Steve Simper, Alltrade


Steve Simper started out in the aerial installation industry following the storms of 1987, and has built a thriving distribution business...

Steve Simper largeSteve Simper started out in the aerial installation industry following the storms of 1987, and has built a thriving distribution business that is seeing dramatic growth in the custom install (CI) and AV space. He is now the Managing Director of Alltrade, a leading CI, AV and aerial products distributor with five trade counters and affiliated distributors across the UK. In this exclusive interview with HiddenWires, Simper gives his take on how the custom install market is changing, and why installers, retailers and aerial/satellite industry professionals would benefit from visiting the Alltrade Tradeshow on 30th October 2014. Q: Why did you form Alltrade, and how has the company developed over recent years? A: I was introduced to the industry through my father, Jim Simper, who was working for Labgear Cablevision (part of Teleste at the time). I worked for one of his larger customers, an aerial manufacturer, to set up a base in the south for them, but it only lasted a year. I became self-employed in 1989. Sky had just launched and looked set to take off, and I felt that the time was right to create a distribution company that served the entire TV, cable and satellite industry. We did extremely well with Sky, expanding to new premises and setting up trade counters across the south of England, and that flowed seamlessly into digital switchover. As that business was clearly finite, we have expanded into the flourishing CI and AV industry by applying the same levels of trade customer service that have underpinned our success in the aerial and satellite industry. In the last few years we have grown significantly in the CI and AV space, and have continued to build an expanding base of products, services and trade customers in this sector. Q: Who are your customers? A: We very much cater to entry- to mid-level installations across AV, CI and home security products. Many of our original customers - aerial installers and retailers - are now building their CI business, so we are very strong on delivering help, advice and free project planning. We are constantly developing our product range to offer a complete one-stop-shop for installers at the more affordable end of the market. Our key brands are the likes of Sonos, DemoPad, CYP, Triax, Antiference, Global Invacom and Blucube, plus a raft of cabling and components to link these brands' products together for seamless end-to-end integration. Q: How are you adapting to the changing needs of the market? A: During the satellite TV growth era and then digital switchover, many of our customers' businesses were entirely focussed on aerial and satellite dish installations in homes, and distributed systems for flats and commercial premises. We have actively supported our customers that have transitioned their business into the CI and AV space and gained many new customers who have set out into the custom installation industry. We run a number of training courses throughout the year, offer a free project planning service, telephone support and, of course, plenty of help and advice from our experienced trade counter staff. Q: Why did you establish the Alltrade CI & AV Tradeshow? A: We always used to have an annual open day at the head office warehouse where we would hold exhibitions, but we simply outgrew this space. We first ran an external Alltrade tradeshow in 2009 at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, largely because we had so many brands that wanted to get their new products in front of our growing customer base. Now in its sixth year and continually expanding, we have had to move to larger premises again to cater for the growth in brands that want to exhibit and the increasing number of visitors expected. This year's tradeshow is at the Oaks Hall at Epsom Downs Racecourse and runs from 11am to 6pm. The Epsom Downs location is easily accessible from the M25 and its catchment area is more convenient for customers from our Hemel Hempstead, Dartford and Maidstone branches, as well as our affiliated distributors in Reading and Aylesbury. Of course, we warmly invite trade visitors from all sectors of the industry. Q: What can visitors look forward to at the show? A: This year the tradeshow has an even stronger CI and AV bias, with many big name brands in the install sector using the show as a springboard to launch new products. We offer a show discount of 5% on any products ordered at the show, a raft of extremely good product-specific promotions and a free prize draw ╨ all while ensuring visitors are well catered for with free tea, coffee and bacon rolls on arrival. This year's event is certainly the biggest we have run to date, with more exhibitors and brands than ever, and we are hoping for a good turnout of trade visitors. Q: How do you see the CI & AV industry developing in the UK? A: It has got enormous potential. Not just at the traditional CI end of the market that would see customers spending tens of thousands of pounds on a project, but significantly at the more affordable end of custom install and multiroom entertainment. Brands such as Sonos have made multiroom audio available to almost everyone, and there is growing business to be had for experienced and new installer companies looking to get involved with these smaller installation projects. New, more affordable, products are opening up multiroom entertainment and home automation to a very wide audience, and Alltrade has become a key trade distributor at this 'lite' end of the CI market. Q: What are your plans for the future? A: We are establishing a really strong line-up of products in the entry- to mid-level custom installation sector and we are going to continue to build the business in this area. It is a perfect fit with many of our long-standing customers who are adapting their business to new market dynamics. We are also attracting a lot of new business from companies specifically setting out to offer 'lite' custom installation and associated services to consumers and businesses. Our free planning service, customer help line, trade counters and affiliated distributors are proving to be a perfect base from which to build the CI, AV and security installation side of our business for these customers. Steve Simper is the Managing Director of Alltrade, a leading CI, AV and aerial products distributor. The annual Alltrade Tradeshow is being held this year at Epson Downs Racecourse on 30 October, with free registration to attend for all installers, retailers and aerial/satellite industry professionals. To register, email your name, company and contact telephone number to tradeshow@alltrade.co.uk, or call 0844 225 2700. www.alltrade.co.uk