Backed by technical know-how and experience, JCP Construction Products has grown an enviable reputation in the fixings sector, but General Manager Nick Beardon sees a big opportunity ahead for the brand in the generalist market, as he explains to Torque…
Teddington, South West London, is an affluent part of the country and handily placed for the capital, which is unsurprisingly home to a fair few construction projects – the kind of projects that JCP Construction Products regularly supports, whether through products via distributors, or through its technical expertise.
Increasingly, JCP supports construction projects with onsite pull out tests. “It’s part of the culture now,” JCP General Manager Nick Beardon tells Torque. “Particularly in London they ask us for pull out tests, whether it’s a requirement of the job or for their peace of mind. People recognise JCP as one of the top three fixings in the industrial supply market.”
Founded in 2000, JCP has come a long way in a relatively short time. Establishing itself at around the time that Jaton and Owlett were merging, JCP offered a fixings range that was differentiated from ‘me too’ product on the basis that it had the technical back up.
Sixteen years ago, around the time that Nick Beardon took the reins at JCP, the brand started pushing and taking market share which has seen it become one of the top fixings companies in the industrial supply market.
“If I look at our competitors like Fischer and Rawlplug, they are also strong into the DIY market and the sheds, and those are places where we hardly have any presence at all. Our strength is in fixings distributors, and the kind of merchants and distributors that are talking to customers about fixings all day.”
So while there is ground to make up in the more generalist market, that also means there is a big opportunity for JCP, as Beardon explains: “The next development for us is working to grow our share of that other side of the market.”
As regular Torque readers and those with a close eye on the industry will have spotted, JCP’s division head – Hexstone, recently relaunched the ‘Unifix’ brand with eye-catching, practical and reusable ‘trade’ and ‘retail’ designed packaging; that experience will now be applied to a new range from JCP.
“Our next market approach will include a trade and retail bag range. We’ve done very well in the industrial market, which makes up around 70% of our business, but this will be a concerted effort to grow that other 30%, in the builders’ merchants and the DIY sheds too.”
JCP’s original DIY range has been successful, particularly with some long-term builder merchant partners who have gone on to expand over the years. But, Beardon admits, JCP’s offering needed to meet the customers’ needs, regarding packaging.
“We felt we needed to offer something better to the customers we are already doing business with. It’s easy to fall foul of that. When you are getting the business anyway, you could have that attitude of ‘let’s just carry on with what we’ve got’. But we felt it wasn’t good enough.”
“Hexstone did a great job with the new Unifix trade and retail bags. They have had a big impact since they launched, and we have learnt how we can refine it and apply it to JCP products.”
“JCP doesn’t supply nuts and bolts – most people know what do with a nut and a bolt. But if I give you a throughbolt, then you need to be told what to do with it, and we now have the packaging to explain all that. We’ve now got a picture of what it does, information relating to the base materials, bar coding… and then on the back there is technical information and a QR code, which leads you to the data sheet online, courtesy of the JCP website. There’s even a simple colour key, to quickly identify ‘what products go where’. We have also produced a new brochure which covers the entire range.
“It’s all about raising that side of the business and gaining share, and these are just starting to get into the market now.”
So, does Beardon feel the market is demanding better packaging?
“It is becoming more important. We found that some of the bigger merchants that Owlett-Jaton is supplying weren’t taking our fixings. So, I visited some of these customers and they had Owlett-Jaton nuts, bolts, screws and nails… but when it came to fixings it went to the likes of Rawlplug. We had to ask, why is that? And it’s because we didn’t have the offering. We had the product, but the packaging was not right, and packaging is important in the minds of the merchant “We are very good at what we do – we talk to numerous professionals including engineers, specifiers, architects, as well as those who apply fixings for example, who are all experienced with fixings, and we can help them with any queries they may have. It’s that other level where people might not necessarily know what they are doing, or fully understand the options available to them. We have been focused solely on the professional market, and now we are beginning to look beyond this.”
It’s not a complete shift in focus though, with the professional technical end of the market still claiming the lion share of JCP’s business. To support that, there’s an ‘Anchor Calculation Program’ (ACP) available from the JCP website, which is due to be updated.
JCP is a member of the European Consortium of Anchors Producers (ECAP), and Nick Beardon is also on the board of directors. Thanks to this involvement, JCP’s Anchor Calculation Program is about to get a new update which will include a rebar calculator. “It’s now a suite,” says Beardon. “The two programs open up – the ACP (Anchor Calculation Program) and the rebar calculator – and you can choose which one best suits. We will soon have a façade calculator available too, which will tell you how many anchors you need, and where to apply them.”
This edition of Torque Magazine goes to print in what are supposed to be the last few weeks for the UK’s EU membership. But when it comes to Brexit, uncertainty remains king. “The Brexit scenario has thrown things up in the air,” the JCP boss rues. “Are we going to be part of Europe and are we going to have European Technical Approvals? I think we will. British Standards are very much involved in European standards – they sit on a lot of committees so that won’t change.”
Brexit has to be considered regarding JCP’s overseas expansion plans, Beardon explains.
“We already have customers in Europe (and beyond) and we see room for expansion in terms of export. If I look at our competitors in Europe, they do the same things that we are doing, but some of them export more than they do in their own market; that means huge potential.
“We are busy day-to-day. Sales have slightly slowed in the last couple of months and I do think that Brexit is a contributory factor toward this – I think people are waiting to see what will happen. Brexit has impacted on costs, as well as exchange rates. And with the raw materials rising on top, that has put pressure on suppliers.
“Nobody is exempt from this. It’s a close market and I speak to my competitors. Naturally, we are all very sensitive as to what we share, but I hear the same opinion from them.”
For a business that prides itself on the extent of its technical knowledge, replacing long standing staff is a big deal. Peter Gaster has served almost four decades in the fixings industry and retires this year. Thankfully, JCP found a knowledgeable replacement in Karl Greenwood.
“Peter was one of the first employees at JCP and is now retiring. Karl joined us from ITW and has brought 25 years of industry experience, having worked with Hilti, Fischer and others, so we have that continuity of experience. The JCP sales force talks fixings all day long, so they have to know what they are talking about – distributors, engineers, and the like are relying on that technical knowledge.”
With a new JCP Area Sales Manager added to the team, the JCP crew also support Hexstone/Owlett-Jaton Area Sales Managers, who call on customers on a day-to-day basis.
“Our guys will carry out site visits and pull out tests, upon request. If there is an issue, or a fixing cannot be applied, they will go and give advice on behalf of a distributor.”
While the technical side of JCP’s business continues to grow, what plans lie ahead for JCP, generally? “Without doubt, the next major project is the packaging, and gaining even more awareness of JCP out in the UK market. We’re also offering more training sessions in our training centre here in Teddington. We’ve got the equipment and blocks of material, and it’s an opportunity for people to come in and get hands-on experience.”