Providing the link between brands and retailers, a good distributor knows the market inside out. They’ll understand trends, pricing and margins and have an eye for innovation. We caught up with Elliot Bishop from bébélephant to find out more about his business.
How long have you been in business and why did you set it up?
bébélephant is now 14yrs old! We started when we saw a pram hook in America – they weren’t widely available in the UK back then! We got the UK distribution rights and the rest, as they say, is history!
How do you find your brands – do you search for them or do they find you?
Searching for the next big thing is akin to the holy grail! Trade fairs are always helpful, but we have always engaged with developers who come to us with ideas which we then sift and bring the good ones to market.
What do you love about being in the baby business?
It’s a very friendly market to be involved in, at every level – from manufacturers to retailers. I do like seeing innovation and then bringing the product from paper drawings to the shelf.
Why should a retailer stock your clients’ products, and can you offer them anything special?
As a distributor, we have tended to shy away from furniture and prams in favour of accessories and specifically tech. Accordingly, our hero products (those with the biggest volume) have been at the innovative end of the spectrum, or those with a USP – whether it’s a wireless breast pump, cutlery that helps fine motor skills or a ‘simple’ tea bag with proven infusions for new mums and mums to be.
Is there anything that you wish retailers and brands understood or would do differently?
The overwhelming majority of our retailers have had to adapt in recent months to be more media savvy and less afraid of online sales. Those retailers have survived and will be the future – whatever one’s view of the place of bricks and mortar. If I had a wish, it would only be for retailers to sometimes be a little less rigid in terms of newness and less demanding in terms of margin (but that’s two wishes!).
Some brands should also do a little more research in terms of what the market is looking for regarding newness and price, and be a little more understanding that their product can do equally well (if not better) by only being sold online, provided their content is of a very high quality.
How has your company reacted to the Coronavirus pandemic and have you had to change the way you do business?
We moved our back office operation to our homes at the start of the pandemic and haven’t looked back. The safety of our employees remains paramount. Besides that, we have been open for business throughout. Our stock levels have always been fine to cope with any unforeseen disruption – be it Covid or Brexit related.
What three top tips would you give a retailer or a brand looking to start out?
1. Do your research on your target audience
2. Ensure you have a professional website
3. Work with a good distributor!
What exciting plans do you have for the year ahead?
Q1 will clearly continue where 2020 left off so will be challenging. But we have some really exciting newness coming down the track – we can’t say too much yet, but it looks exciting already!