‘The smart home isn’t from the planet Mars. Don’t be scared of it’

In his first interview as chief executive of Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances, Andy Griffiths tells Sean Hannam why he’s excited about British brands, the connected world and the challenges that lie ahead

Glen Dimplex owns some of the best-known household brands in electricals. Who better to head up the newly-formed company, Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances, than one of the biggest personalities and well-known characters in our industry – Andy Griffiths?

The former president of Samsung UK and Ireland – he spent 10 years working for the Korean electronics giant – Mr Griffiths took over as chief executive of Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances late last year and is responsible for brands including Roberts, Morphy Richards and Glen Dimplex Home Appliances (Belling, Britannia, New World, Stoves and Lec).

ERT spoke to him at the Roberts head office in Chertsey, Surrey, and found him in a bullish mood.

“I grew up as an audio guy, but I ended up selling a lot of televisions,” he says, laughing…

Q: Congratulations on your appointment as chief executive of Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances – a newly-created division of the Glen Dimplex Group. How does it feel to have joined the business?
Andy Griffiths:
Thank you – it’s great and it’s good to be involved. I’m back up to my neck in an industry that I love. It’s a great way to start the New Year, with a big challenge.

Q: You’re a few months into the role. How does it compare with working for your previous employer, Samsung, where you spent 10 years?
I’m enjoying it immensely – it’s a different kind of company and a different kind of challenge. It’s not such a big, global corporate structure as some of the brands I’ve worked for – it’s more nimble, entrepreneurial and flexible. I’m enjoying that change in tone and I like the management challenge.

It’s driven by my appetite for change – when you have been somewhere for such a long time, you are looking for something to refresh yourself and a new intellectual challenge.

I loved my time at Samsung – they were 10 amazing years. Glen Dimplex is turning the page in its organisation and I see it as an interesting professional challenge.

We’re taking a number of individual silo companies – different brands and operations – and we’re bringing them into more of an integrated, horizontal structure.

Glen Dimplex has the biggest collection of British brands across a number of markets. It’s a fascinating challenge – how we make it an even more relevant and interesting business to the British public. There’s a huge opportunity to do more.

I know I can make a difference and add value to the good stuff it has and take the organisation to the next level. That’s exciting.

Q: Can you tell us more about the thinking behind the new Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances division?
It’s a new company – we have a wide number of individual brands. The overall Glen Dimplex Group – in Ireland – had got to a stage where it made more sense to group the key businesses together.

The other main Glen Dimplex business is heating and ventilation – the more industrial and B2B side. I was asked to come in and organise nine different consumer product brands across three markets – CE, SDA and MDA. As a combined set of brands – a division – we have a bigger voice and a bigger resource than we do as an individual set of companies. We can organise more efficiently.

Marketing is a key requirement, particularly in the digital age.

By combining and prioritising spends and focusing more on marketing as a bigger business, we can find more efficiency and – particularly in the Brexit world we live in – we can also look for more international opportunities. I’ve just built a new European organisation to take the whole set of brands forward in a way that’s naturally more efficient, because of scale, than it would be if you were approaching it brand by brand and company by company.

The brands have their own personalities in three very different market segments – we want to build on that and help it resonate more strongly.

Q: The Glen Dimplex brands all operate in growth markets, don’t they?
All the markets are great for allowing brands like ours to offer real differentiation and to present something that’s not globalised, but is more specifically tailored to local needs. Our British brands have a big personality of their own – it’s not a homogeneous, neutral or bland approach. We’re looking to bring something else to the business.

It’s interesting how a business tackles its structure in a post-2008 recession world. Nearly nine years later, businesses are still finding their new paths. For us, that means making sure that we are relevant and growing in our markets. We believe that there is clearly a great opportunity to grow the existing business.

Q: So what are the opportunities for the Glen Dimplex consumer brands?
We have a number of products that are very strong in their markets. We’re very strong in cooking and SDA – Morphy Richards is one of the major brands in the market – and we’re very strong in radio. We believe that there is more growth in all of those markets.

Smart radio is coming through – it’s a really interesting category and has the potential to help a lot of people access and stream music more efficiently.

Roberts enjoys a market share of more than 40 per cent in radio, but we have a responsibility to grow the market, engage more consumers and bring them back to the market. Roberts has to be relevant with its traditional business, but also building new business with younger consumers and in growing sectors like wireless speakers and multi-room.

The audio business is growing again because of the content, streaming and the ease of the experience. We’re now thinking of Roberts as more of an audio business – one of the products that we’re looking to launch under the Roberts brand is a turntable, but you’ve got to bring something in that matches the Roberts heritage and reputation. It’s great to see vinyl playing a role again.

If you look at our other businesses, there’s a huge opportunity with our strength in cooking – it’s part of people’s lifestyles.

I’m a great one for looking at mega-trends and understanding how people’s lives can be further enhanced. We have a suite of range cookers that are some of the most beautiful and best built in the market. Along with our full range of freestanding and built-in cookers, they match the needs of people – the amount of cooking they’re doing, the fresh food they enjoy and the healthier lifestyle they’re now more aware of. A cooking product has to be fun, well-designed, colourful and a very good cooker.

We’re really excited about the growth potential for our cooking products. Abroad, British cooking products are seen as being very well-made. We still have connected products to come.

SDA is a fascinating category – there’s so much going on with design and how you can lead the market using form factors, materials, colour and texture. Morphy Richards has been very good at reinventing itself and leading the market in terms of design trends.

Q: The smart home sector is a perfect target for the group, isn’t it?
AG: It’s a great opportunity and one of my roles will be to stay closely in touch with our heating division, which has a lot of natural advantages for its products, as people look to control their energy bills and manipulate their energy usage – particularly from their smartphones.

There are a set of products that are going to fit very nicely into the connected world – audio is one of the quicker, evolving sectors.

Q: You’ve gone on record as saying the smart home represents the biggest opportunity in the electrical industry for 20 years…
First of all, it’s the size of the technology market itself and the ubiquity of people’s usage.

If I think back to the ’80s, we could only have dreamt of a market that was this size and was essential to the way in which people live – now it’s ingrained in everything we do every single day. The scale of the market is impressive and that mass of business is there for everybody to exploit.

Secondly, there is a big switch to the connected home going on now – the smartphone phenomenon has now matured and peaked out. Over the past eight to 10 years, it has taken a lot of the spend from consumers within the technology sector. Now we’re seeing a shift back to the home market, with connected implications – the products within a home will talk more intuitively to each other.

Smart naturally evolves into connected – it’s a chain that links together and comes as a natural progression from a smart product into something that communicates more readily and does more for you more intuitively.

I think that’s something that retailers can grow into – they can add it on to what they already know.

Whether it’s the retail community or consumers, people aren’t starting again – they’re doing the same things, but doing it better, which is what we’ve always done in the tech world.

If you look at the renewal of the home electronics market over the next few years, it’s a massive opportunity – whether that’s the existing product base or the range of additional products that can now be added.

Q: What’s your advice for small independents making the move into selling the smart home?
You can’t ignore it – you need to get on with it, but what it means for you, in your locality, is an important thing. If you accept that smart progresses naturally into connected, you are evolving yourself in the product sectors that you already support.

What I suggest you do is have a look at what other product sectors complement those you’re already involved with. You can’t fail to get involved in the standard bread-and-butter connected TV stuff. All TVs are smart. The interesting thing is how you add on to that in terms of the product and service proposition – whether that be installation, follow-up support or the online customer experience.

You’ve got to build a story to show that you have an expertise and can lead people through the new dimensions of the connected home. That’s something that should be fascinating for a lot of retailers who have continuously updated and taken on the next products.

The smart home isn’t landing from the planet Mars – it’s largely coming from the research labs of North America and Asia. Don’t be scared of it.

Q: What tech is currently exciting you?
There’s so much going on with the connected home – I love that and it’s interesting to imagine how far this will have progressed, even in the next five years, and to understand how fast-burn this will become by the end of this decade and the start of the next. This will significantly change the impact technology has on people’s lives. I like the fact that the smartphone market is now saturated, because it gives all the tech brands good reasons to do the next thing.

I love all the stuff that’s going on in content, which gets more and more exciting – VR and AI – whether that be in gaming or music or films. Tech is going to be such an important choice in people’s lives.