Comment by Patrick Avenell
Rawsons Electrical in South Australia has a proud history. Soon after the Second World War, Ken Rawson started the business as a contracting company, before expanding into appliance sales, B2B electronics and after sales service.
The next generation of Rawsons, cousins Rob and Don — along with one-third owner and sales director John Pysing — have expanded the family empire further, with Rawsons now carrying out commercial fit outs, lighting designs, underground systems, fire protection systems and switchboard upgrades, in addition to operating three Rawsons Elite Appliances retail showrooms.
To demonstrate the influence that Rawsons has had on the industry, Pysing likes to tell the story of how Miele Germany contacted the family for help in 1985. Miele was only selling one product in Australia, a washing machine, and the local subsidiary and not yet been opened. The German company wanted a service agent for this washer, which was popular with South Australia’s large Teutonic community so, long before the famous red vans were here, Rawsons was that first red van.
Adding to the Rawsons narrative is its unique independence. Although Pysing describes the company has the South Australian version of Winning Appliances or E&S Trading, Rawsons has no interest in joining Narta, or any other buying group. Instead, it is cutting out even more middlemen.
Under the banner ApplianceSalesDirect, Rawsons is turning importer, picking up a three year license to import and sell the troubled Teka brand. According to Pysing, Rawsons is eliminating the Agent, the Importer, the Distributor and the Retailer from the margin mix, as they will be doing it all themselves.
Pysing claims an Australian first with this arrangement. He says no other unaffiliated Australian retailer has exclusive access to the full range of a leading European brand, to sell direct to consumers through bricks and mortar stores and online.
There are some similar arrangements, for example Ariston through the Harvey Norman network, but Pysing believes this is a one-of-a-kind for Australia.
Teka has a turbulent history in Australia, with Pysing blaming five previous CEOs and/or GMs for its failures. That doesn’t make the product undesirable, however, and it is this profound belief in its appeal that has caused Rawsons to blur the lines between retailer and supplier to offer Teka major appliances.
And those appliances now sit side-by-side in the Rawsons showroom with Smeg and Gaggenau and Miele — all brands for which Rawsons has the biggest account in South Australia, according to Pysing.
When JB Hi-Fi cut out the middleman and started importing cameras to sell online at greatly reduced prices, Canon and Nikon both flipped out, but Rawsons is not concerned.
Even though Pysing proudly exclaims that he is, “Brining pyrolytic ovens, induction cooktops and a vast array of other products directly to the consumer at huge savings,” he does not believe this will negatively impact his long-standing relationships with established suppliers.
“Our relationships run very deep with these companies,” he said.
So if a customer comes into a Rawsons Elite Appliances showroom, they’ll have the choice of the Teka brand at a very cheap price or the Miele brand at the Chartered Agents RRP. Because Rawsons is the importer, it doesn’t have to kick any money up through the chain, so it will make sense to them to constantly push Teka at every opportunity.
It’s a big step for a company known for smart moves and it’s one that should be watched with keen interest from both sides of the aisle. If it works well, is profitable and doesn’t affect sales of established brands, expect to see more of it. But if there’s a noticeable slump in Miele or Gaggenau or Ilve sales, expect to see more of only Teka at Rawsons.
Here’s Pysing’s prediction:
“Over 66 years we’ve made the right decisions — we don’t just go and doing anything unless it’s profitable.”
A version of this article first appeared in Appliance Retailer magazine under the headline "A new technique for selling Teka".