Interview with Distrelec’s Own Brand Manager, Gemma Squire

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Our own brand RND has always been popular for anyone looking for products that meet the demands of maintenance-focused industries, at a better value with a superior level of quality. Let’s take a look behind the scenes as we meet RND’s biggest champion, Gemma Squire.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Gemma Squire and I am the Own Brand Manager for RND here at Distrelec in our Manchester Hub. I have been with the business for almost four years, when I joined as a Product Manager. Time flies!

How did you get into your role?

Before Distrelec I worked sourcing home and furniture products for a UK retail business. But I always felt like I needed a new challenge, something exciting to learn and experience that would also put my knowledge into practice. That’s why RND and Distrelec were so interesting for me – totally new products and industries, lots to learn and enjoy – and a new brand to really nurture and grow. My father worked for years as a Mechanical Engineer – so I grew up with these tools and components around the house and in the garage, and it was nice to finally really understand what they were for.

What do you most enjoy about working on the RND team?

Every day is different with RND. We do so much, from sourcing new products from around the world, working with our factories and suppliers to get our product ranges right, to ensuring the quality, value and compliance are true to our specifications. We work closely with our in house marketing and design teams to really get the RND branding right. There’s usually some travelling involved – my role has taken me to many amazing places in just four years. And then there’s the team: we are lucky enough to have a really strong, passionate and dedicated team who pull it all together and are so knowledgeable.

2020 was a challenging year for us all. How did RND fare during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what have you taken away from it?

2020 was indeed challenging! We began to work from home in March 2020, and after a short time we understood that we needed to alter our ‘business as usual’ and put some of our product plans on hold. We were brave enough to alter our strategy very early on and decided to support our customers in the best way possible- by sourcing the products that they needed most.

We jumped to sourcing PPE and masks, cleaning solutions, floor markings and lead acid power sources – and even some cool innovative options like a contactless door handle. And we also helped educate our customers on 3D printing solutions for comfortable use of face masks. I found my role changed quite dramatically, but it was necessary.

It was also confirmed that the decisions that we made last year were the right ones – we recently celebrated our most successful year to date with some pretty impressive numbers. We smashed our budgets and we remain important to the business, although it was difficult at times trying to adjust to meetings online via Zoom and Teams.

I’m really proud that we came together as a team to support each other while helping our customers in the best way that we could.

RND is newly exclusive to Distrelec. How do you plan to shape the brand proposition in line with customer requirements?

This is really exciting for RND – we can finally focus our efforts on the Distrelec customer base, and really drill down to identify and analyse what our customers truly want and need from their tools or components. We now have more data and history to analyse, so we can make smarter decisions. It’s all heading in the right direction and I’m excited for the year to come and what we can introduce next.

This month is RND’s anniversary. What’s your personal goal for RND this year?

I think 2021 will have just as many challenges as 2020… COVID is still very much a part of our lives right now, but we also need to think of the bigger picture, and the possibilities of only being a few months away from the return of some kind of ‘normal’. We also have a smaller team than we have ever had, with fewer new lines being added, but it means we are leaner and more focused. My aim this year is to really look at making a difference to our customers, working smarter, cleansing the assortment we have, and making room for the products our RND Distrelec customers need.

RND is divided into several sub-brands. Can you explain to us which sub-brand does what, and what industries each brand is particularly suited to?

I can explain and list our brands, for sure. But because we have such a massive customer base (tens of thousands!) and across so many fields, I wouldn’t like to try and categorise our customers into ‘pigeon holes’ – as every business and industry works differently. I think all our customers have requirements from all of our 5 sub-brands.

I can tell you though, that our RND Components and Connect brands are probably most popular with the majority of our customer base: searching these on our web shop you will find everything from switches and relays, connectors, mechanical components, enclosures and axial fans… and so on.

Within RND Cable – you will find all things cable-related from the obvious cable and wire, to ties, assemblies and cable supports.

Our RND Lab brand offer a massive range of tools & soldering, ESD and PPE, chemicals and a great selection of great value and affordable test & measurement equipment.

RND Power provides our customers with those important plug-in adapters, primary, rechargeable and lead acid batteries, plus inverters and switching power supplies for our industrial customers.

A lot of data so far suggests that we have a wide customer base working in the field service and electronic manufacturing fields – so of course we will be making sure we cater for the needs of those areas.

What key product developments are part of the RND strategy in 2021 and further down the line?

This year we have focused on some really important categories: we launched a strong selection of solid wire in Q1 which has taken off better than expected. We will introduce some great premium quality tools manufactured in Germany in the next month or two. Then, we have test and measurement in our diary for launch in the summer. We’re actually in negotiation stages with a lot of factories across all RND sub-brands – but you will have to come back and visit us every week to find out more on that!

What’s your favourite RND product/range?

Wow – that’s a difficult question to answer! There are so many projects we’ve worked on in the past which mean a lot to us and our customers in many ways.

I’ll never forget my first project as a PM for RND – a small selection of hand torches. That’s where I first experienced the RND product lifecycle and process.

Then there’s the top-selling RND tool kit, we have amended and improved this kit to get it just right: the quality, the components and the price. We have some ultrasonic cleaning tanks too, and I could spend all day cleaning components and inspecting them once they’re clean!

The product range that I think has made a difference to our customers, and something I will always remember, is the face mask collection. Who knew that something so ‘simple’ could be so important…

What’s so special about RND?

As a team, we pride ourselves on our brand messaging: ‘Save like never before – great quality and low prices guaranteed’. We work hard every day to get the best possible product, at the best price – and we pass this on to our customers so that they can make a difference to their business too. Compliance is also adhered to, and we have some of the strictest compliance checks around so we can guarantee our products meet the strictest of standards in the industry. We have a loyal customer base – and we are also loyal in return. We strive for our customer.

And if you ask me personally – RND means hard work, dedication and passion for product, but also with a bit of fun in between. We are human beings after all – we have a great friendship in the team, and I think that matters in today’s world. It’s the kind of working environment I believe you can flourish in.

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