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Traditional values see Albion through 20 years

Commitment to its distributors has been at the heart of Albion's business model since opening its doors in South Yorkshire 20 years ago. Today, maintaining these relations is still a focal point in the company's strategic approach, and continues to contribute to its growth says sales director Les Littlewood

ALBION WAS set up with the sole purpose of supplying quality products at an affordable price, to independent pipework distributors and engineering merchants throughout the UK. Today, its network of distributors is more important to its operations than ever. Simply, when distribution is good, business is good.

Les Littlewood, sales director at Albion says: 'This is a people business and we run on traditional values. At Albion it is the dynamics of personalities and good relations that drives business, rather than optimising search engines or collecting 'likes' and 'followers'.

New media certainly has its place and works for many organisations, and we do embrace new technology where relevant. However, it is our core traditional values of quality and reliability that are integral to Albion's culture, and that makes our wheels of commerce turn.

People buy from people. We endeavour to go that extra mile for customers, not because it says so in our brochures or is it written on the website, but because it is a way of life.'

In recent years Albion has become increasingly recognised as an established brand, providing customers with alternatives to premium priced products. This position as a 'challenger' brand has found favour with their distributor network resulting in Albion increasingly gaining ground in the marketplace.

In addition, the manufacturing 'status quo' in the UK's commercial valve industry has also leveled the playing field. Today, almost all valves are manufactured in the Far East meaning that contactors can compare 'like with like'.

Albion has always been transparent regarding the manufacture of its valves, which are devised in the UK and made in either Italy or China. All products, which are sourced from quality manufacturers, meet Albion's own exacting standards and have the necessary approvals for gas and water applications where required.

We have developed products hand-in-hand with customers, ensuring they get exactly what they need, and much of our product range has emerged as a direct response to customer requirements.

We ensure our distributors always have the best choice available to them, and carry a stock of over 5,000 products to which they have full access.

With choice and quality as standard, Albion endeavours to support distributors and boost their bottom line through marketing.

As a team we have thought long and hard about how to deliver a marketing campaign, that would drive business directly to our distributor network. So, the brief to our advertising agency was to create a campaign that would both boost the Albion brand name and communicate the product's USPs, but direct potential customers straight to our distributors for purchase.

Similarly, Albion's online presence is very much a reference tool designed as a product information portal to be used by their distributor network, rather than a vehicle to place orders.

This has been a successful strategy, in that marketing activity has stimulated interest for the brand through advertising and targeted publicity, which ultimately translates in orders for distributors.

One thing all Albion's customers will agree on, is the need to have product in stock when their customers need it. This being the case, Albion operates a 'dynamic stocking policy', which ensures an average of 95 per cent stock is available. By minimising stock-outs Albion helps distributors keep promises to customers, even if it means delivering directly to site on the distributor's behalf.

The economic climate has dictated that the majority of customers now purchase little and often. Offering logistical support, by storing stock and staggering deliveries, Albion encourages its customers to benefit from their buying power and ever-increasing stock holding.

Price is always something that focuses attention and Albion strives to ensure its products are amongst the most cost effective in the market, as well as allowing distributors the flexibility they need to be competitive. It is not uncommon for some manufacturers to control their distributors' profit margins; whereas at Albion distributors always control their own selling price and margin.

Additionally, training is vital and Albion invests time imparting product knowledge to its distributors' sales teams, either on a one-to-one basis, or as a team presentation, often on a weekly basis working with them like an extension of their own team.

A business built on profitable partnerships, Albion still deals with some of the same distributors they opened their doors to almost 20 years ago. Having 'grown-up' together, and weathered many economic storms and industrial turbulence these core networks, along with others they have engaged with along the way, form the backbone of the business.

Les concludes: 'We very much value our distributors, their expertise and contact networks and will continue to work with them to ensure Albion is the first choice for independent distributors.'
13 February 2014

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