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View from the channel…..Mike Rae, Managing Director, Highland Copiers

Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?

A: The last 12 months has been very mixed. During the first six months up to lockdown, I was very happy at the continued rate of Highland Copiers’ growth. Whilst I have been satisfied and a little surprised we have continued to show growth recently, the current and most recent six months has been very interesting adapting to the COVID-19 world and its challenges.

Without being complacent, whilst the future may continue to have its challenges, we quickly adapted and made the necessary changes to ensure the company’s health and security. I am confident of Highland Copiers’ future and security with no redundancies to date and must also thank the loyalty our customers have shown us along with their own resilience in their own businesses to struggle on in these unprecedented of times.

Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?

A: We have seen an increase in our customers’ request for and warmth towards document solutions and workflow software. More recently however, during the current COVID-19 world, as you could expect, we have seen a sharp increase in home and desktop MFDs along with the automated core body temperature monitors.

Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?

A: Through word of mouth and flying the flag for local, in an environment with mainly national competition, the local market we operate in has shown ever increasing interest in Highland Copiers and our slogan ‘discover true local…’.

We chose to offer ‘no small print’ tie in or early termination penalty clause service contracts. We are confident in the service standards and levels we promise and deliver and we believe our customers stay with us because they want to and not because they are contracted to. We are not insecure in our standards of service and therefore see no reason to have small print tie in early termination period clauses.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?

A: Aside from the Brexit unknowns, it’s fairly obvious. Operating directly in Scotland, potential future localised lockdowns, restrictions on travel, difficulties and questioning of the ethics/morality around visiting customers in person in the current climate for sales and account management, along with the extensive levels of PPE and hygiene/safety precautions our service team have to take, all make for an interesting and challenging future.

Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what?

A:Whilst we cannot fault our main supplier – Develop (DSales), where we almost always receive free delivery due to the volume of our orders. It is well known the highland area suffers from southern delivery companies operating discriminative stealth taxes/surcharges delivering to the highlands, however, highland delivery companies can deliver to the south with no surcharges.

These one way surcharges could and should be removed and this is possible with doing simple homework on the many different options available to our area such as air, rail, road and even having a main port available. One big change I see currently (however I’ve seen the wind change many times within my 18 years operating in the industry) is the acceptance rates of finance companies across the board not being as high as pre-COVID times. Whilst I fully understand why, it would be a big help if they lowered their points criteria to help the country continue on.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why?

A:I do love my job and the addictive satisfaction it gives growing the business, however, in a dream world with no common sense or care of costs, I would love to have many more hands to help as our business continues to grow.

www.Highlandcopiers.co.uk

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