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Merlin ready to work some retail magic

by Stuart Wilson, Monday 14 May 2012

Fast-growing Merlin Digital is attending this week’s DISTREE Middle East event in Fujairah to showcase its portfolio of digital lifestyle products to retailers from across the region. UAE-based Merlin Digital has been ranked by the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment at number ten in terms of innovation – an honour that the Merlin team is immensely proud of. Rohit Bachani, sales director at Merlin Digital, gave www.channelemea.com the inside track on the company’s progress to date and plans for the future.

CE: Is Merlin Digital still in an expansion mode? What’s been happening recently?

RB: This year we have opened our own outlets in Singapore and we are opening our own store in Abu Dhabi as well. We are highlighting the latest in Merlin Digital technologies and also new partners we have signed up under our umbrella - notably Secu4 from Switzerland, Click Car from Switzerland and Pleo the Robotic Dinosaur. We have also started selling screen protectors from a company called Wrapsol that manufactures in the USA.

Merlin Digital has been ranked as a top 20 small and medium enterprise in Dubai and also a top 10 company in terms of innovation by the Dubai Government. We are the only technology vendor from 75,000 UAE firms that hold this distinction.

Most retailers are well aware of our main products. We are the ‘go to’ company when retailers are looking to add innovative digital lifestyle products to their portfolio. Retailers always get a great response - and profits - from stocking our products. Our product categories include digital lifestyle products such as pocket projectors, media players and charging solutions. In total we have 200 SKUs and most are high ticket items that add real revenues for retailers.

CE: What are your three main reasons for attending DISTREE Middle East? What do you hope to achieve at the event?

RB: We have had a strong footprint in the UAE and other regions from the past 12 years, but feel there are a few areas still not covered by Merlin Digital. DISTREE Middle East is a powerful fact finding mission for areas where we are not yet present. It allows us to identify retailers that can benefit from having Merlin Digital products in their portfolio.

DISTREE Middle East is one of the few places where all our key partners are under one roof. It is an opportunity to discuss business with them and understand their concerns and how we can help them. DISTREE Middle East offers a relaxed but focused atmosphere and a great deal of work is done at DISTREE – it is like having a whole year of meetings in just three days.

We also have new agreements under our umbrella and want to introduce these products to our existing partners and educate retailers on the new technologies Merlin Digital is bringing to market this year.

CE: Which countries, customer types and retail channels represent the greatest opportunity for growth for Merlin Digital in the Middle East?

RB: Geographically we have coverage and trade across all EMEA markets. The business grows year-on-year as per our penetration plans and business strategy. We see potential in many markets including Saudi Arabia, Africa, the CIS and the UAE across retail, corporate and government channels. There’s always potential and a huge opportunity to double the business from our current market share. We consider the potential of all our existing partners and new partners without limitation. Again that’s what all Merlin is about: ‘Add a little magic to your life.’

CE: Why should retailers stock your products? What makes your channel proposition better than competitors in the market?

RB: By introducing and focusing on innovative products Merlin Digital has excelled in all markets. Being innovative means being first to introduce certain lifestyle products into the market. We must be doing something right as the Middle East Retail Academy (MERA) monitor, which represents all the top GCC retailers, has nominated us three years in a row as a top five digital lifestyle vendor alongside brands such as Sony, Samsung, LG and Canon. When a local firm is put alongside such esteemed companies it is testament to what Merlin Digital is doing for the overall bottom line of retailers.

CE: Do you have a structured retail channel programme? Do you offer a strong margin proposition to your retail partners?

RB: Our structure for retail channel partner programmes is designed to meet retailer requirements. Our well organised distribution platform ensures merchandising, marketing, product listings, pricing, stock planning, logistics and helpdesk are fully integrated. Retailers need margins and support in terms of inventory rotations as they cover a lot of infrastructure costs. We are always working hand-in-hand with them to offer the best support that encourages them to come back for more Merlin Digital products.

CE: What sort of support do you offer retailers in terms of marketing, promotions and POS activities?

RB: We discuss with each partner how we can make the merchandise more attractive to the. It is in our best interest to showcase our products effectively and educate consumers. This helps them to understand the product against their needs and to make decisions on the spot. Our display stands and well trained staff make the difference at a shop floor level.

Training and dedicated merchandisers are major investment areas for us. Very few vendors go all out in these areas. Despite our smaller size compared to some of the bigger hardware suppliers we are second to none in terms of store displays, training seminars and dedicated merchandisers.

CE: What have been the major developments for your company in the Middle East in the last year? What do you have planned for full year 2012?

RB: The brand is well recognised and has fulfilled our expectations as a result. We have launched our own retail stores - not to compete with the mass stores and chain stores - but as more of an education tool. Pricing [in our stores] is generally higher than the retailers. We have expanded our retail presence with our dedicated stores in Abu Dhabi and Singapore. We are also expanding in the Ukraine, Australia and other regions as well this year.

CE: Is your company channel-friendly? How would you describe your overall go-to market approach in the Middle East market?

RB: We wish to be present in all retail channels and flexible enough to meet market demands. We work on consistent follow up, identify the size of the business of each partner, and deploy resources to improve each business. We also work on brand building to capture new channels. For example we have had a cash and carry store for smaller wholesalers for over a decade in Computer Plaza, the wholesale hub of Dubai, targeting niche channels. Some of these channels have grown to become more significant. We allow the channel to buy slowly, support them in terms of training and pricing, and they come back to us with confidence to increase their commitment to us.

CE: What other key messages do you want to get across to retailers attending DISTREE Middle East?

RB: The best way for retailers who are interested in adding Merlin Digital in their range to find out more about how we work is to speak to other retailers who are already working with us. We could say something, but true testimonials come from our existing partners. And I can say with confidence that retailers will hear many positive comments on how we add to the store experience, profitability and overall wow factor for all of our partners.


DISTREE Middle East 2012

DISTREE Middle East is the ultimate professional networking event for senior executives from the consumer electronics, digital device and ICT products retail channel in the Middle East region. DISTREE Middle East is a focused event for retail executives based on the successful concept of bringing high-level buyers from emerging markets into productive contact with vendors.

More than 60 vendors met over 170 retail executives at DISTREE Middle East 2011. The total delegate base exceeded 500 and more than 1,100 pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings took place during the event. DISTREE Middle East regularly attracts hundreds of senior executives from the region’s consumer electronics, digital device and ICT products retail channel. These include the powerful buyers and decision makers responsible for product selection for the retailers they represent.

Not only is DISTREE Middle East a powerful business platform, it is also an annual networking function allowing vendors to meet face-to-face with both existing and potential new retail partners from across the region.

For retail executives, attending DISTREE Middle East is time well spent. In just three days you can hold dozens of face-to-face meetings with existing and potential new vendors, meet with your peers from across the region, find out more about the latest industry trends and market data. All this at one exclusive event: DISTREE Middle East - the ‘must-attend’ event for vendors and retailers associated with the region’s consumer electronics, digital device and ICT products channel. www.distree-me.com

Vendors, retailers and distributors wishing to participate at DISTREE Middle East 2012, which takes place from 15-17th May, should contact fhemraj@distree.com quoting code DME12 for full details.

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