With interest already building for the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer, the sporting flavour this year will be high with athletes from all over the globe honing their skills to compete across the 33 different sports.
PG Buzz ‘tracked’ down some of the industry’s own team of ‘medal winners’, independent sales agents, whose respective and multifarious talents see them overcoming hurdles and delivering glory for the companies they represent and their retail customers.
First ‘off the blocks’ is Stephen Dickson, agent for Scotland representing Abacus Cards, Doudou et Compagnie, D&X London Jewellery, IC&G, Mint Publishing, Quotable, Peppermint Grove Australia and Village Candle. He wife Gillian represents most of the giftware but he does have a handful of customers that he deals with for gifts too.
What Olympic event is most akin to you as an agent?
“Life as an agent is like a multi-eventer. There’s the sprint for seasonal, January to March for Christmas sales and July to September for Spring Seasons. It also needs full speed ahead to do the returns.
Then there’s the marathon on everyday sales, looking for consistency month by month similar to that of a mile-by-mile time in the marathon. Customers are your correct nutrition in the race. If you have the right customers you should make the finish line!
There are the hurdles. You need to be ever-ready to jump over obstacles such as rising costs, the effects of the internet on high street sales, competitors’ products etc.
And gymnastics. You are constantly spinning faster and faster trying to meet the needs of customers and suppliers.
Let’s not forgetting the pole vault. Being an agent relies on the strength and flexibility of your product to get you over the bar.
And finally, there’s the high jump. Just like sales targets you are always hoping to increase a little at a time to try and beat your previous record.”
What were the hurdles of 2019?
“2019 was a very tough year. It didn’t help that I broke my leg in April playing football and was off the road for three months. Thankfully most of my suppliers and customers were understanding and we managed to get through it and I ended the year marginally up on 2018. I found that I was fighting hard for every sale, trying new avenues and working longer hours than ever before. This is exactly the same for the vast majority of retailers I’ve spoken to. They are having to strive to give the best retail experience and product range possible to entice the customers through the door. All that against a challenging climate on the high street, Brexit and the political unrest having been a constant pain.”
And on the positive side, what was the ‘high jump’?
“High points in 2019 were few and far between. However Christmas sales seem to have been very strong giving the year a jubilant finish!”
What is your 2020 training plan?
“I sense 2020 will be another very tough year, I’m under no illusion. Hopefully we can get over the political problems and the high street can settle a little, but we will still be fighting the constant problem of the internet. However, like every athlete, with the proper preparation and dedication/hard work I’m sure we can make it a ‘personal best’ and come out with the gold.”
Top: Stephen Dickson having just finished the Dublin marathon