Trade talk: Q&A with Simon Dalton & John Pitt, Directors of Roma Medical
As the coronavirus outbreak spread across the UK, companies large and small had to adapt and pivot quickly to respond to the rapidly evolving situation.
For Roma Medical, the company made the decision to launch a new direct-to-consumer online proposition under the banner of its parent company, Invamed.
THIIS found out more about the new sales model from Simon Dalton and John Pitt, Directors of Roma Medical.
THIIS: Can you tell us more about your new direct-to-consumer website?
Simon and John: “The invamed.co.uk website has been launched as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our dealer business stopped overnight when the prime minister announced “lockdown” on 23rd March. From April 1st, we had to put the bulk of our administration staff on furlough whilst our production staff continued to produce goods for the NHS and the Nightingale hospitals in particular. These orders were completed by the end of April and the majority of our production team were also put on furlough from May.
“Prior to COVID-19, we were already receiving a large number of ‘end user’ calls every single day. That volume of end user calls increased hugely in April and May as customers had nowhere else to turn whilst looking for assistance with their products, with very few dealers open or in a position to help. Instead of leaving customers to wait until the lockdown was eased, we tried to help the customers in any way we could. We were not only being asked for parts for our scooters but also for other importers/distributors products that had also decided to close.
“It was then at the end of May that we decided to recall our inhouse web designer and to build the invamend.co.uk website. We have owned the web address since 2001 when we purchased Roma Medical with the intention of changing the company name – that didn’t happen but we always retained ownership of the domain.
“One dealer has suggested to us that the website had been in place for around a year: this is not correct. The name was registered almost twenty years ago but we changed our domain host provider around a year ago and this then appears as its inception date.
“The purpose of the website was to help end users when there were very limited options available to them. We do not know how long we will have the website running but until the market re-opens fully, there is no sense in preventing end users from accessing our products.”
THIIS: Why have you decided to launch a direct-to-consumer arm?
Simon and John: “We are by no means the first and we are sure we won’t be the last importer / distributor to launch an online sales outlet. We, along with some, have been transparent in what we are doing whilst others have been operating more covertly.
“Has it affected other companies which operate in the dealer and online markets in any way?”
THIIS: What does this mean for Roma’s dealer side of the business – are you still looking to work with retailers?
Simon and John: “We are, of course, looking to continue working with our dealer network now and when life & business returns to normal. Unlike many of the other importers/distributors, we are not part of an international group with large finances behind us; there are just the two shareholder-directors here and we do not have the deep pockets the big international corporates have.
“We are being told via the media on a daily basis how businesses have to adapt to get through this difficult time. We are continually reminded on the news of large, established high street brands and household names closing their doors for good and/or going online: why are Roma Medical or the mobility industry, in general, any different? We are not immune to the effects of COVID-19 so we are implementing changes to safeguard the future of the company.
“We hope when the market returns to some form of normality that we will be able to sit down and speak with like-minded dealers who do not want to carry on ‘as we’ve always done’ and instead adapt and change the way our industry works.
“This has been a very difficult period for everyone but we must look positively to the future and adapt to the changing world.”
THIIS: You are offering a price promise on your website – how do you reconcile this with your dealer sales?
Simon and John: “A simple Google search shows this is a term all websites use to attract traffic – it’s one of many thousands of Google keywords and it is used by the vast majority of online sellers. We are not doing anything new here.”
THIIS: How are you assessing customers’ needs for these products online?
Simon and John: “Roma Medical was probably the first distributor to introduce and incorporate an assessment form as part of the warranty form. We continue to use this. We have always tried to support the bricks and mortar dealers and indeed several years ago, at substantial financial cost, we tried to implement an instore only policy for some of our own brand items.
“Part of the criteria we tried to implement was that an assessment had to be carried out. The then Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated and concluded that it was in the best interest of the potential purchasers to be able to compare specification and price online and to make a purchase without having to leave home. We argued that we were dealing with medical devices and that an assessment should be mandatory. Neither the OFT nor the BHTA were interested in this, so maybe the question would be better directed to them.”
THIIS: Do you envisage more manufacturers moving to a direct-to-consumer model in the future?
Simon and John: “As we have highlighted earlier, we have no doubt that other distributors / manufacturers will go direct if they are not already doing so.”
THIIS: Is there anything else you would like to tell the dealers in the sector?
Simon and John: “We appreciate the concern that dealers will have, this was not a decision taken lightly, it was one of necessity rather than choice. We look forward to our continued relationship with the dealers long into the future.”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-talk-qa-with-simon-dalton-john-pitt-directors-of-roma-medical/https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Invamed-Roma-website.jpg?fit=900%2C437&ssl=1https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Invamed-Roma-website.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Analysis & InsightsNewsroomRetailer NewsSupplier NewsTrade NewsTrade TalkD2C,direct-to-consumer,DTC,Mobility Industry,Roma Medical,Trade talkAs the coronavirus outbreak spread across the UK, companies large and small had to adapt and pivot quickly to respond to the rapidly evolving situation. For Roma Medical, the company made the decision to launch a new direct-to-consumer online proposition under the banner of its parent company, Invamed. THIIS found out...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine