Supreme Imports entered the world of batteries almost by accident. Struggling with a failing retail business, Sandy attended a trade show to try to liquidate stock. What happened next changed the family business forever. “When I did that show, somebody—just by complete chance—gave us some Duracell batteries and said ‘I’ve got about £1,000 worth of these that I need to get rid of. Can I leave them on your stand and if you get any orders you can buy them from me?’,” says Sandy. “And I thought, there’s no harm in that, so I put them on display. There were just a few packets of Duracell batteries on the stand, but we got a lot of orders—like £30–40,000 worth—which, in those days, was a phenomenal amount of interest for us.”
Sandy thought that the interest in Duracell was a bit strange, until he discovered that although their batteries were available in large supermarkets, there was no distribution network in place to service the many thousands of independent wholesalers, cash and carries and retail stores across the UK. Demand was huge and Sandy approached Duracell to help fulfil his orders. Being the nice guy that he is, he didn’t want to let his new customers down.
“I went to Duracell and I said ‘I need to place some big orders, can you help me?’ They weren’t interested. They just said ‘We don’t have those channels, we’re not interested in supplying.’ So rather than just leaving it, because I did not want to let these customers down, I looked around, investigated the market and found that in Germany, Duracell batteries were sold cheaper—60 per cent cheaper than in the UK. So I went to Munich, which I thought would be a good place to start. I literally just went to the hotel and picked up the Yellow Pages, looked up battery wholesalers and made appointments to go and see them over the next three days.”