In April, we reported that the ‘marquee’ brands from photo accessories distributor Maxwell International – Tamron, Lowepro, Joby and Velbon – were moving across to global supply chain/logistics specialist TNS Connect, a subsidiary of large European-based operation TNS Distribution, a global distributor of consumer electronics and accessories for a range of top-tier CE brands.
‘It’s been a fast and furious three months,’ TNS Connect general manager, Krishna Bhatt told PhotoCounter, as he outlined what’s been achieved to date and what’s in the pipeline for the new TNS Photo Specialty Channel group and its customers.
‘The aim was to adopt Maxwell customer trading terms as much as possible in order to minimise inconvenience to our new trading partners,’ he explained. ‘Even the third party logistics warehouse operations at FDM were adopted, so no stock had to physically move. The customer order delivery procedure also remained the same using the FDM courier associates.
The TNS internal sales team received a lot of support from outgoing Maxwell staff to ensure a smooth transition and help identify issues and potential ‘pain points’. Ex-Maxwell IT manager Paul Ford was hired at the end of May to improve the integration of the two companies’ IT systems.
‘He has worked to keep the strong points of both systems delivering a way of doing things that are both efficient and customer-friendly. Not all are in place yet, but the to-do list is much shorter than a month ago,’ said Krishna, adding that they were around 95 percent of the way there.
One critical step on the cusp of being achieved is launch of a retail customer eCommerce website, with comprehensive product information and pricing and an ordering facility.
In order to ensure important supplier relationships were maintained and developed during the transition, former Maxwell MD John Swainston and product marketing manager Paul Gibbs have been working part-time to assist wherever necessary, and covered areas like product familiarisation, price lists, forecasting, bringing the old and new teams members together – and basically being on hand to answer the myriad of questions that such a transition involves.
Troops on the ground
It was quickly realised that there were not enough troops on the ground to give effective cover for the large specialty and CE customer base for the quality brands TNS now represents. The number of familiar – and popular – photo industry executives employed by TNS points to a continuity of relationships and specialist knowledge.
This was soon expanded to include Lea Scriven, former Maxwell area manager in Melbourne, who will cover the Victorian business. In the past seven weeks she been calling on as many customer as possible and getting customer support call cycles back on track.
Internally a dedicated sales team has been created to handle direct orders, product information, customer liaison, and support of the external sales force.
‘Many customers may already recognise names such as Mai, Andro and Inga in support and these people of working hard to ensure quick efficient service. Peter in demand-planning and Gavin in logistics combine to compliment the team,’ Krishna explained. ‘Alexandra Andrews, CE channel sales director has worked hard to create this close team and this will certainly pay dividends for all, long-term. Newly appointed Sean and Mira will work in accounts and will be TNS’s accounts contacts.’
More recently the Queensland manager Adam Wilson was promoted to national sales director. The just last week another member of the Maxwell team, Brendan Wallace, was hired to cover the Queensland and Northern Territory accounts formerly handled by Adam Wilson.
Adam Wilson will now manage the photo sales team and be the pivot point for relationships with major accounts and business development across Australia. With over 25 years experience in the photo industry as an area manager, state manager and running his own photo distribution business, he boasts close relationships within the industry which will put him in a strong position to understand ‘both sides of the equation’.
‘Working with a company like TNS allows us to combine the core values of the past with future expansion via product diversification and new market creation, assuring longevity for us all,’ he said.
‘I am confident that working with our customers we will enable them to expand their consumer offering in related consumer electronics accessories that will make their offerings even more broadly appealing than just the great photo brands we represent.’
The potential for photo retailers to access imaging-compatible CE accessories is a bonus from the transition to TNS Connect. While its early days yet, and the focus is still on bedding down the core photo business, smartphone imaging accessories such as Flir One – which turns a smartphone into a thermal imaging camera – could well have a place on photo specialist shelves in the future.
‘The main concern is to get the photo brands up and running but working with a global team there is the opportunity to harness global connections, be on top of new trends, identify new opportunities and new products which will allow us to get ahead of the game,’ said Adam.
TNS concedes there have been some supply issues with Tamron since launch but ‘this is not unique to TNS.’ He emphasised that in recent high level discussions, Tamron has agreed to give priority to supplying the Australian market.
‘TNS apologises for the inconvenience caused and hopes big incoming shipments will soon fill the shelves with quality mega-zoom Tamron products once again, as well as the new generation of SP Prime lenses and best selling f2.8’s,’ he said.
The Tamron Australia social media program is being relaunched across Facebook and Instagram and a well-resourced six-month marketing program is being put together for the new TNS Connect photo brands to help channel customers into photo stores.
Krishna Bhatt concluded by saying: ‘The team are all very excited to move into the next chapter, getting the remaining weaker links fixed and once again offering the kind of full service support customers for these brands have been able to enjoy for decades.
‘As the company moves into the upcoming high demand and sales period of spring and holiday time in the summer, TNS look forward to winning growing retailer support.’