EXCLUSIVE: Online is now Nisbets’ biggest sales channel and growing the fastest

Online sales now represent the biggest single source of revenue for Nisbets, underscoring the increasing appetite that caterers and chefs have for purchasing commercial kitchen products and consumables via the web.

The Bristol-based catering equipment supplier operates a multichannel sales model that encompasses 30 retail stores, direct mail and telesales, but soaring online growth has placed ecommerce at the forefront of the strategy.

Speaking to FEJ, new group CEO Klaus Goeldenbot said that the web was outpacing all other mediums in terms of growth.

“Over the last few years online has become the biggest single channel in our multi-channel model and it continues to grow the fastest. It enhances the overall omnichannel performance — we are digitally-led but with a human touch via our stores, contact centre, sales teams and after-sales teams.

“For me this is strategically very important because if you look at everything that is happening in the world you need to find a way of using online to the benefit of your business, your customers and your suppliers. I am very proud to say it is our biggest channel. In fact, we are now in the top 250 UK websites full stop, according to Internet Retailing, which is a nice achievement for us.”

Mr Goeldenbot did not disclose the exact percentage of sales transacted through the Nisbets website, but as a group it turned over £321m in 2016. That figure is expected to be even higher when its next set of annual accounts, for 2017, are published.

Nisbets’ website offers caterers access to more than 25,000 products, with free next-day delivery for orders above £50 excluding VAT.

Its online dominance in the catering equipment sector is confirmed by Alexa.com, which measures and ranks website traffic.

Nisbets.co.uk currently ranks at 3,073 in a listing of all UK websites, based on a combination of daily visitors to the website and pageviews from users over the past month. To put that into context with its competitors, Lockhart.co.uk ranks at 84,898, while AllianceOnline.co.uk ranks at 25,997. Nisbets catalogues

The rapid growth of online naturally raises questions over the role that Nisbets’ mail order catalogue business – which the foundations of the company were originally built on – has to play in its future.

Asked whether that side of the business is shrinking now that more customers are buying online, Mr Goeldenbot replied: “There is still a big chunk of sales going through mail order, but I would say that the catalogue circulation is smaller than what it was years ago. Browsing in a catalogue is so much easier than browsing online and for some people having their phone or a mobile device in a kitchen isn’t the right thing. What they increasingly want to see are other publications, such as ‘specialogues’. For example, if you want to present a tableware range reflecting the latest trends then the current edition of the catalogue might not be the ideal format.”

He added that Nisbets is seeing a trend towards brochures or additional publications that focus on a specific part of a range, but stressed that this was also reflected through dedicated web pages and relevant retail shop displays to ensure a joined-up approach.

“At the end of the day, a customer might go online or might be prompted by a brochure that we send them but then they might buy through the website or in-store. So there is always this never-ending challenge of creating a seamless experience for whichever channel the customer is using.”

The full interview with Mr Goeldenbot is published in the February issue of Foodservice Equipment Journal.

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