Caterpillar dealer Finning is developing a network of small, semi-autonomous regional dealerships in a bid to boost sales of compact equipment and grow market share.
The CAT Compact Dealer network, launched just over two years ago, now numbers eight dealers and is intended to penetrate regional markets with compact equipment such as mini-excavators and skid-steer loaders.
CAT Compact Dealer network manager John Tierney says that by appointing established regional plant dealers in strategic locations, Finning can reach buyers of smaller plant more effectively than before.
“There’s a perception among small to medium-sized customers that they should be doing business with a local firm rather than with big national dealer like Finning,” Mr Tierney says. “The local dealers already have a relationship with these customers.”
The Compact Dealer network was conceived shortly after Finning sold leading national hire network Hewden to a group of investors in July 2010. Previously, Hewden had been Finning’s biggest customer for compact equipment.
One plant purchaser tells Construction News that owning one of the UK’s biggest hirers made Finning neglect smaller independent customers. “They got a wake-up call a year after selling Hewden when Hewden went and bought millions of pounds-worth of kit from JCB,” he says.
The new Compact Dealers all offer CAT compact equipment to the exclusion of rival marques, although they continue to offer non-competitive and complementary equipment alongside the Caterpillar range.
All dealers carry CAT branding and promotional material and receive training and sales support from Finning.
Lee Chater, sales director with Kent-base Versatile Plant Sales – which became the first dealer to join the new network in January 2011 – says that sales have tripled since his company became a CAT dealer.
“We are still independent, but we get a lot of support from Finning,” he says. “Even in a flat market we’ve been able to win market share.
“Our customer base hasn’t changed, but we now have a wider and better-supported range of kit available.”
Mr Chater also points out that his customer base is not confined to SMEs and that Versatile has recently signed a 50-machine deal with utility firm UK Power Networks.
The most recent addition to the CAT Compact Dealer network is Cornish firm W H Bond, which joined in December 2012.