"Building our strategy along with retailers has been key to our success"
Impex is responsible for AEG's Automotive Energy, Safety & Maintenance Solutions in several European and South American markets.
We had the pleasure of interviewing François Maradan, Development & Marketing Manager, and Jérôme Fabre, Marketing Director who explain how they built their business strategy in conjunction with retailers.
What was the starting point for Impex?
Impex has been up and running for 45 years now, and it all started thanks to a visionary idea: establishing partnerships with distributors.
Along with the rapid development of hypermarkets in France came the expansion of the necessary parking lots to accommodate the vehicles of customers. The founder of Impex surmised that consumers would require products to make their vehicles more comfortable and more personalized.
In order to reach this new target group, the company first opened car accessory stores in shopping centers then, later, secured space on hypermarket shelves and, eventually, opened stores in car centers. Now we also distribute our products via tire manufacturers, DIY chains and on the internet.
Which qualities were crucial to the development and success of Impex?
Since we started the company, we have expanded from the French market into Continental Europe, Asia and South America; establishing sales, distribution and subsidiary networks. We now have over 6000 products and we owe this achievement to our expertise and to a solid financial structure but, most importantly, to our engaged and motivated team!
What are your current challenges and how do you overcome them?
Regulations and enforcement on product quality are growing: we regularly need to add icons to our packaging, pass various quality tests and have our products validated. Therefore, we do normative monitoring in order to continually be prepared for future requirements.
When it comes to distribution, even when selling leading brands, it is still challenging to get our products listed, to ventilate shelves (increase shelf space in different aisles to maximize visibility) and to have decisions implemented quickly.
Tell us more about your different products and brands
Firstly, we sell entry-level products under our own brand, Impex. Import-export, which used to cover 75% of our business, now only represents 15%.
We also handle some private label business (retailers’ own brands) which allows us to offer differentiated and intermediary price-point products.
Then, we cooperate with industrial partners (equipment manufacturers) and, finally, we license about a dozen selected, relevant and internationally renowned brands which consumers recognize from other product categories.
This variety in our range allows us to offer consumers a full, structured and relevant assortment of products that complement each other.
Can you give us some examples of your licensing partnerships?
We have established partnerships with several premium brands following the necessary research to establish the brand relevance to the car industry.
We always follow a medium-to-long term strategic plan as it is important for us to provide consumers with long-lasting products and offerings which we can maintain over time. Among those licensed products, we can name Airwick’s air fresheners, Playmobil’s toy-storage boxes, WRC (World Rally Championship) accessories, Michelin for safety items and, of course, AEG automotive tools!
Tell us more about your experience as a licensee of the AEG brand
We have been licensing AEG for two years now and, with this premium brand, we have been able to access a new consumer target group.
We brought the AEG brand, reputed for being the best in technology and design within the white goods sector, to the neighboring DIY sector (in particular car maintenance, energy and security).
We have infused AEG's brand equity in expertise, functionality, performance and aesthetics into a complete range of automotive tools including spark plug spanners, battery chargers, LED work lights, diagnostic tools and compressors. We are now present in more than 1000 points of sale (POS) with this AEG product range.
It is crucial for us is to visit the stores daily, through a salesforce of 35 certified people. This helps us both to receive feedback from retailers and consumers, but also to maximize our visibility at the POS.
We are also devoted to our consumers, not only at POS but also at home by focusing on customer service. This is especially important since our products are technical and can sometimes appear complicated.
What is the secret of your strong relationship with retailers?
We always select strong brands to license that we wish to invest in for the long term, rather than taking a “try-it-and-see” approach. This, we believe, keeps us ahead of the competition. We have also established a high confidence level by letting retailers participate in building new assortments. We see them more as collaborators rather than competitors. We also collaborate with other AEG licensees in other markets who share the same strategy and vision. This is good for business and provides both parties with inspiration.
How do you adapt to a changing retailing environment?
We have noticed a general decrease in the salesforce in many stores. In response, we are doing our best to simplify their work via effective logistics, convenient packaging shapes & sizes and other time-saving and space-saving innovations. It is this strong partnership with retailers that enables us to remain both relevant and responsive to changing economic environments.