‘Phoenixing’, competitor pricing to the point of a loss – why would anyone go into retail? We speak to Sheree Wymer, MD Softview, a woman at the sharp end of window retail.
“I don’t really understand how you can run up debts, not pay your suppliers, staff and creditors, close down on a Friday and then reopen on a Monday under a slightly different name”, says Sheree Wymer, Softview. As it turns out, regardless of whether you have an ‘X’ or ‘Y’ chromosome, retail presents a common set of challenges.
“I really think the Government needs to be doing more to address it. It’s not a level playing field”, Sheree continues. “It’s the biggest challenge that we face, you’re never pitching on an equal basis. You’re always up against a cheaper lower quality window, or shoddy workmanship.
“People are prepared to quote silly prices all the time and you have to be able to demonstrate the additional quality in your product and service offer.”
Waiting to meet with Sheree, who seems to jump straight from one into her next meeting, I can overhear a member of staff on a post-installation survey call, double checking that they were happy with a recent installation.
“We want people to be happy” says Sheree. “We want to have a reputation for doing a decent job at a fair price. We’re not in it to become multi-millionaires. I don’t need to fly around in a helicopter.
“We’re here to work hard, make a profit but not to do it by charging someone an extra £3,000 one week for a product that sold for £3,000 less the previous week. We don’t get drawn into discounting.”
Serving Essex and surrounding counties, Softview operates from one of the UK’s most impressive independent retail showrooms, with multiple conservatory and orangery installations, offices and meeting rooms, with product simply labelled and immaculately presented.
“To be honest I’m going to change it. I look at it and I see little bits in corners, marks – it needs a refresh. I’m a little bit OCD and I get bored and start moving things about”, Sheree quips.
“It’s the same in the warehouse. I need everything to be ordered. It comes in its processed and then it has a place. I’m amazed that you go into some companies and things are just dumped in corners. I like things to be regimented.”
‘Regimented’ crops up as a term more than once in our conversation. It is clear that Sheree likes order and process, two factors highly influential in her decision to buy-in from Emplas.
“They’re regimented”, she continues, “they have processes in place so that when you’re dealing with them there’s a high degree of transparency. That means they get it right – you still get the odd mistake but not very often and they genuinely want to help. That’s all you need and want in a trade supplier.”
Softview has bought-in from Emplas for the past two years. “Everyone told me it wouldn’t work because I was too demanding”, says Sheree with a wry smile.
“In fact it’s worked well and they have added a lot of value. They get retail and they know what you’re up against because they have their own retail business. They’re also switched on to product innovation.
“For example, we’re currently talking to them about a new development in conservatory glass – they’re looking for the same opportunities as us. Those product developments or innovations that swing the balance in your favour.”
This has included tapping in to an evolution of UltraFrame’s U-design platform, developed by Emplas/T&K.
This moves the standard programme available from U-Design forward from CAD design and the conservatory roof element of the job to include frames, install costs and building works. This includes, for example for additional electrical or plumbing works, tiling or laminate floor fitting, sub soil removal and laying of patio slabs.
This, in turn, offers increased visibility and transparency so the design can be tailored to the customers budget, but also allows our customers to promote add-on services. It’s also fully integrated with Emplas’ quote creation and lead management systems.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand for conservatory/orangery type installations, demand is in fact far higher than it is for just frames alone. People are looking for additional space and new generation conservatories offer a good fit”, says Sheree.
“Emplas’ adaptation of U-design is helpful in giving you greater visibility of costs but the fact that its integrated with its Quotation Software is a big advantage.
“You get salesmen who may be great at selling a conservatory or windows but they’re not always great at pulling quotes together. In using Emplas’ quotation software, we speed up the process but also make sure all of our quotes are consistent.”
Accessed through EVA, the Emplas Virtual Assistant, Emplas Quotation Pack software pulls-through detail from U-design to create detailed and professional quotes in a matter of minutes, including drawings, all relevant certification, accreditations and product specifications. It forms almost a complete schedule of work including structural loadings.
“You have be moving forward”, continues Sheree. “There is so much change in this market. Five years ago we were taking out more timber windows than PVC-U, now we’re taking out more old PVC-U and aluminium windows. We recycle and track waste so we know.
“Data is so important. I’m always looking for patterns, we drill down into every little statistic and it informs our planning.
“This year isn’t going to be particularly easy and the data we have, the process we apply throughout our business, is going to be very important.”For more information on Emplas visit www.emplas.co.uk , email [email protected] or call 01933 674880.