Ronnie Nag

Ronnie Nag, managing director at Quore & Q-London

Rob Haycock
Rob Haycock, managing director at Kondor
Mike Hopkinson
Mike Hopkinson, group sales director at Pama

According to a recent study from ABI Research, 66% of revenues earned from mobile handset accessories are generated by off the shelf sales. This percentage is only expected to grow with time, following a market trend to move more and more accessories ‘out of the box’ and onto retailers’ shelves. Heather McLean takes a look at making money from this lucrative market.

For mobile dealers, the value of the accessories market has always been strong, but it is set to grow further this year, states Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom.

According to ABI Research, the current most popular off the shelf accessories are memory cards and protective silicone carrying cases or sleeves. Both result from the popularity of smartphones, says ABI research industry analyst, Michael Morgan, as their multimedia capabilities often demand extra memory capacity, and their high value encourages owners to take better care of them.

Adding value

Accessories have always been important, says Ronnie Nag, managing director at Quore & Q-London. He reminisces that back in 1995, Fineskin Leather and Supplies were selling mobile cases and chargers to numerous distributors who are still in the market.

John Willoughby, commercial manager for accessories at Frequency Telecom, agrees: “We think accessories probably more important than ever. Now that smartphones are being more widely used, people are less keen to swap handsets as often and they want to get more use from the handset. More mobile phone users are downloading music onto their mobile phones and they need accessories to be able to replay it. Couple that with the high power demands from smartphones in particular and users need a range of charging solutions to keep the phone topped up.”

Rob Haycock, managing director at Kondor, comments: “For far too long, the mobile accessories market has been underestimated. It is only in the past few years that its importance has been recognised by the industry as an area of business where there are real opportunities to maximise sales and make great margin.

“As mobile handset functionality increases, the importance of mobile accessories grows as people rely more and more on their handsets and want to get the most from them,” explains Haycock.

Economic hit

However, the economy has had an effect on accessory sales, says Tow: “It’s changed the market in that value for money is much more top of mind when a customer is accessory shopping, and rightly so. But keeping value in mind does not negate innovation or advancements in size, shape or features of mobile accessories,” he claims, “They can coexist perfectly well together.”

On how the economic climate has changed the accessories market in the last six months, Willoughby says that clearly, a reduction in disposable income has had an effect. “Prices have been driven down and consumers have looked for more value. We are seeing increased sales for lower cost kit, such as Bluetooth accessories, and fewer sales of car kits. We are also seeing an increase in sales for accessories that prolong the life of handsets, such as cases and battery chargers.”

While Mike Hopkinson, group sales director at Pama, adds: “It has changed the

fact that people are taking more care in what they are spending and it is important to them to get the right accessory brand. Consumers are not looking to buy the cheap, low end budget products, while the business person is always looking for the right product for the job, not necessarily to save money on the purchase of the accessory, but to save time and increase efficiency.”

Hopkinson continues: “As customers are not rushing to buy new phones, as a retailer it is important to keep good stocks of accessories, not just on the current phones but also the slightly dated phones. For instance, one of our biggest selling batteries is for the Motorola D520; now that really is an old phone.”

Yet Pama’s largest independent customer, that uses the distributor as a single source supplier and stocks 60% Pama-branded product, is currently experiencing in excess of 40% sales growth year on year on accessories, states Hopkinson. “And that’s in the current economic climate,” he adds.


Top margins

As to which accessories create the largest margin for dealers, Willoughby comments: “There is a balance between margin and volume. It is more likely that dealers can sell a high margin, low cost handset case at the point of purchase, as opposed to selling a high margin, high cost car kit, for instance. Accessories such as cases, which can be displayed easily, generally generate higher margins and are bought on impulse.”

States Hopkinson: “The simplest product can be the best margin creator. This can be a good quality carry case or a CE-approved car or mains charger. Again, batteries and memory cards are important link sales.” While supply and fi t of car kits is a must for any reputable dealer, comments Hopkinson. “The latter is where the margin is. If you do not have the facility to install the car kits directly, it’s easy to partner with your local and friendly auto electrician.”

Including apps in the accessories section opens up the area, states Tow. “Apple’s App Store for the iPhone shows the potential of software-based accessories, with one billion downloads in just nine months. Hardware-based accessories have been around much longer but retain just as much excitement, in terms of new products and revenue opportunities, and in terms of cross-sell and up-sell.”

Working with Avenir, dealers have access to products from a whole group of accessory manufacturers and one of those is Avenir’s own accessory brand, OXO.


Hot tips

The OXO range breaks down into three main families. OXO Fashion is doing well in Europe, according to Tow, and about to arrive in the UK. It includes phone cases, plastic shelves, 3D phone stickers and more. OXO Power features both three and two in one USB chargers. And OXO Connect covers car kits, hands free kits, portable headsets, and USB Bluetooth dongles.

Wireless charging solutions will be the next big thing according to Frequency Telecom. Willoughby says a handset will be able to be placed in the vicinity of a charging unit and will be charged by an induction technology. “We predict that a wide portfolio of products will adopt this and it will result in one charger for a range of accessories.”

Solar powered Bluetooth hands free solutions are some of the most innovative electronic product seen in years, according to Pama. The distributor also has more solar powered chargers and new universal products on the agenda.

While Kondor’s Haycock states: “As predicted last year, music and memory are a principal part of the mobile accessory market for 2009. We are also expecting gaming and fashion accessories to increase in popularity. The introduction of handsets, mobile broadband dongles and SIM packs have proved popular as there are some great deals around for dealers and end users alike.”


Not on the ball

However, how to sell accessories is not on the top of the list for many dealers, according to Nag. He states that dealers are missing a trick. He claims: “Dealers are not cut out to sell accessories. It takes a special type to do so. Dealers are busy trying to get more mobile connections and selling accessories is a different ball game.”

While Willoughby comments on the subject: “As diffi cult as it is to generalise, we feel that dealers are still not selling accessories hard enough to businesses. The focus is inevitably on selling the contracts, and accessories are often forgotten in the desire to capture the network commission.

We suggest that accessories could be presented when the welcome pack is sent to the customer following signing of the network contract.”

However, Tow says he does not believe mobile dealers have been missing tricks in the great accessory sale. He adds: “Quite the opposite. The trick, if there is one, is to recognise a customer’s business requirements, which might range from their CSR objectives to the exact daily routines of their fi eld-based staff, and then match these with knowledge of exactly what products and accessories are available to help them achieve their objectives.


New opoportunity

Hopkinson has spotted an opportunity for dealers: “We have noticed the trend recently has been for the networks to rationalise their accessories ranges, which has left the independent dealers a gap that they can exploit.”

He continues: “Dealers have always been excellent at selling accessories, but their focus was taken away with the high commissions being offered by networks a few years ago. Now that is diminishing, they have had to refocus and realise that in stocking and offering a great range of accessories, they can offer their customer or business partner a one stop shop for all their needs, adding accessories to their business contracts when selling them.

“The successful dealers are stocking a wider range of accessories and thus offering a more consultative service to their business clients,” adds Hopkinson.

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