What changes have you seen in the distribution business over the past few years?
From my point of view, I really haven’t seen any major changes in the distribution market. What is changing, however, is that we’re seeing more and more low end products coming from the east. There’s no doubt, those manufacturers are becoming stronger. It’s no longer possible to dismiss them – like we used to do – as being cheap but not very good. In many cases today, they’re cheap – and good. Of course, those pricing levels put pressure on the whole industry.
How is Halilit’s business developing?
We see Halilit continuing to develop as it has always done. Historically – some 70 years ago – we were a musical instrument company. That led naturally to us becoming involved with amplification, responding to demand we saw in the market – and from there, it was a natural next step to move into lighting, as lighting and audio go hand-in-hand for many companies and events. That’s why we have just signed an agreement with SGM to distribute SGM’s lighting products.
How do you choose which products/manufacturers Halilit will represent?
For us, the important thing is that, for every product we supply, we must be able to offer professional support for that product to our customers. Technical support is very important to us. Just as important, though, is the relationships we have with our customers. Halilit started as a family business – and it’s still important to us that our customers feel at home with us, that we understand their needs, that they’re important to us and that we want to take care of them. We like to think we bring ‘soul’ to our business transactions: after all – “businesses don’t deal with businesses: people deal with people”.
The important thing, in choosing which products we will add to our range, is to be able to offer choice. That means having solutions that we can offer at the high end, in the middle of the market and also for customers on a budget. What’s vital to us, though, is reliability. We put our reputation behind the products we sell – so it’s essential that our customers have a good experience with those products. And it’s not just about reliability of the products – but also reliability of the manufacturers who supply those products. We need to be able to trust them. One of the reasons that we decided to source our lighting needs from SGM is that they are part of the RCF Group in Italy – and we have had a twenty year relationship with RCF. We know we can rely on them. Of course, the SGM products had to be good – and they are – but the business relationship is just as important.
What do you think a manufacturer wants from a distributor?
We believe manufacturers are looking to us to act as they would act in the marketplace. They want us to represent them professionally, to expose their products to potential customers, to build a business for their brands, to grow their market share and to help them achieve profitable sales in the territory. Those are core requirements – and that’s what we like to think we do.
How are you managing to preserve – perhaps grow – your profit margins during difficult economic times and when there is so much competition?
As I mentioned previously, pricing is under pressure from manufacturers in the Far East – and that means margins are under pressure too. What’s important is to offer customers value for what they spend with you. If they feel that you understand their needs, that they’re getting a good product that is reliable and well supported, then price is much less of an issue. That’s especially true in a small market like Israel, where a reputation – good or bad – travels fast. Our business is all about creating customers who are loyal to us – because we are loyal to them.