CEO Annemarie Harte visited John Mackin, General Manager of TIMco Ireland, one of HAI’s newer supplier members, in Monaghan recently. With fixings and fastener merchants across the country displaying a greater range of innovative quality products than ever before, John gave Annemarie an overview of TIMco’s launch on the Irish market and what lies ahead for the company, as well as outlining how getting the right products to the shelves at the right price may not be as easy as it seems.
TIMco originally supplied the Irish market via smaller wholesalers from the UK, however as the recession strengthened some relationships became difficult to maintain and they parted company from their main distributor in 2012. A number of UK fixings companies had already entered the Irish market and a decision had to be made as to whether the company should find a new partner or create TIMco Ireland. On looking at other wholesalers in Ireland, they found that the majority of them had trade counters and supplied end users direct. This did not fit well with TIMco’s business model, which is to support the retailer and builders’ provider, so they decided that TIMco Ireland should be born and the offices opened in 2013. John comments: “We love what we do and it gives the team at TIMco a thrill to see exciting new products that have been cleverly designed, carefully manufactured and beautifully packaged hitting retail shelves for the first time. There’s also no denying that part of the pleasure is in the knowledge that the products have been fully tested, will bring benefits to the end-user and lead to increased sales for all the businesses involved.”
The ‘R’ word
Did the recession, still at its height in 2012, impact the fledging TIMco Ireland? John says it didn’t. His first impression of Ireland, having moved from his native Scotland, at that point was that the nation was reeling with the media reminding people constantly that Ireland was in difficulties.
From the outset, he took a very long-term view. He studied demographics, future EU legislation on farming and even intended foreign investment in Ireland. He could see that, in the long term, Ireland would require more housing, more schools and more infrastructure. John believed that the country needed a positive spark. Had he decided Ireland was not worth investing in, then TIMco would be buying into the notion of the continued recession, he believed. He ignored the press, presented the benefits of TIMco and always focused on the positive stories. John says that this approach went down well with buyers who heard everyone else talking about the big ‘R’ while he spoke about future growth.
He comments: “In the last 24 months, we have seen confidence grow massively. While this is very much welcomed, we are also aware of the implications of coming out of a long and sustained recession for business cashflow as retailers and providers seek to provide a credit stream to customers. So, ironically, as we exit the recession we are experiencing more requests to extend credit terms. This does concern us in the short to medium term as we believe some businesses may not be able to facilitate a normal trading environment.”
So far, though, so good for TIMco. The last 24 months have been the strongest yet for the company. The business is growing rapidly with turnover increases of more than 29% to £20.7m in 2014/15 and growth in turnover of 18% for 2013/14. John has confidence in the market, investing in 34,000 sq. feet of new warehousing and increasing TIMco’s product range by 13% to offer more than 5,000 product lines.
Operating in a global marketplace has many advantages including access to raw materials and skilled labour as well as exposure to innovative products and designs that can be manufactured and used at home. As globalisation continues, supply chains are becoming more complex to control. They require the latest technology to manage an ever-expanding network of partners around the world and, with the constant uncertainties of shifting market forces, competitive pressures and unexpected disruptions, there is plenty that can go wrong.
John says: “An example would be in the manufacturing of a simple wood screw. The first stage is to increase the ductility of the material through a heat treatment known as annealing. From there, the wire is drawn to reduce the diameter to the required specification. The wire is then cut to the correct length, a head and recess is stamped and a thread is rolled onto the body. Thereafter, the screws are heat-treated to increase its hardness and strength.
“The product is then plated before being vigorously tested in quality control before being packaged and transported to the UK for onward distribution to customers. This process normally takes up to 90 days but can be fast-tracked to take 45 days depending on global demand for certain products.
“The final hurdle is perhaps the highest as no product is shipped until it has been signed off by our own UK-based quality control team. Once signed off and approved, product is distributed to fulfil local Irish demand within 24 hours. If any products fail our QC, they go back to the drawing board and the supply chain starts again until the product is right.”
So what plans are in place for the next 12 months? The business model of not supplying end users and providing support to retailers has proven successful and very transparent; this is TIMco’s building block of the future. They plan to invest heavily going forward and will in the fourth quarter bring an additional 700 new product lines to the market in Ireland. John says that this will provide growth for 2017 and beyond.
I ask if there’s any particular reason TIMco is located in Monaghan. John comments: “It provided everything we required. We felt, and still feel, that Monaghan as a town is under-valued and under-sold. It provides an excellent pool of very talented people; office and warehousing space is readily available and infrastructure is excellent. Fibre high-speed broadband is available coupled with easy access to the roads network and road tolls are not playing a significant part in our daily costs as a business. Monaghan is very much TIMco Ireland’s home, we purchase as much as we can in and around the town and try to give back to our community.”
If you have a story to tell as a supplier or manufacturer in the Irish market, please contact Annemarie on 01 298 0969 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.