It’s been almost 12 months since AV specialist distributor Midwich acquired UC and security distributor Nimans from Nycomm Group. In that time, Midwich has enjoyed a 40% rise in annual revenue to £1.2 billion, with organic growth of more than 20%. Nimans, too, has been growing strongly, benefiting from rising demand for UC and video security products. Technology Reseller finds out more from Nimans Marketing Director Stephen McIntyre.
Technology Reseller (TR): Your parent company AV distributor Midwich Group recently announced record results, following growth of 40% last year. Was 2022 a good year for you too? Stephen McIntyre (SM): We saw significant growth last year too, of over 10%, and it was pleasing that Midwich has mentioned us as one of the major contributors to their record performance.
Our main areas of growth have been around hybrid working, with strong demand for Microsoft Teams room systems driving the adoption of other solutions. When people have a meeting in their office Teams room, they will often be communicating with someone working remotely who will need a headset, a good speakerphone, a good camera.
There’s a whole ecosystem that goes along with hybrid working, and that includes infrastructure-type products. Lots of home offices now need a good bandwidth router, so they are coming into the equation as well.
The main beneficiaries are the headset and video conferencing vendors, all of which now have speakerphones and video products in their portfolios – and a range of products just to make stocking even harder for us! They will have a personal camera, a medium-sized room camera and a larger video bar. The likes of Yealink go even further with multi-camera systems for lecture theatres and rooms of up to 100 people. They are all expanding and all coming out with pretty much the same kind of market positioning.
I think we’re running at 11,500 to 12,000 stock lines now. We used to have 10,000, but we’re way past that.
TR: Do you supply these products to AV resellers as well as your traditional telecoms resellers, or would you leave that to Midwich?
SM: We do have some AV customers, but we are primarily a unified communications specialist. Three years ago, we also moved into the security sector: CCTV cameras, like conferencing systems, are just another IP endpoint on the end of a Cat 5 cable, so they are no trouble for installers and allow our partner base to branch into a new sector of the market to grow their revenue. When we looked at it three years ago, the security market was set to double in size in five years. We’re talking about a multi- billion pound industry.
TR: As you say, a CCTV camera is just another IP endpoint. On that basis, there must be opportunities to diversify into many other areas.
SM: Wherever there is something you can connect as an IP endpoint, it would make sense for us to look at that marketplace, but to be honest there’s so much growth in the collaboration market and so much going on that we already have a lot to keep us busy.
One of the things about unified communications is that it can thrive in a recession because if you can reduce your travel, you can make savings; if you really embrace the hybrid working model, you can reduce the size of your office space, which has direct bottom line benefits for the company and causes the UC market to grow because more people need communication equipment.
With everybody suddenly having to work from home, 2020 was a huge year for us, but 2022 was even bigger. After making do and getting whatever equipment they could at the start of the pandemic, people last year began to migrate up the value chain and buy products that enabled them to do their jobs better. So, moving away from USB corded headsets to Bluetooth or DECT headsets that let you roam up to 150 metres away from your telephone. Then, there is the natural cycle of replacement, which tends to be around two to three years, and which we are firmly in the middle of now. That recycling period, coupled with greater understanding of the benefits of having the right technology, is driving a growing market.
There have also been interesting developments on the vendor side, notably the collaboration between Cisco and Microsoft towards the end of 2022 that enables Microsoft Teams, as well as Webex, to run natively on all Cisco equipment.
Back at the start of the pandemic, when there were lots of different video platforms and collaboration platforms out there, I said the ultimate winners would be Cisco with Webex and Microsoft with Teams because of the power of those organisations, their foresight and their ability to play the long game.
I think we’re seeing that come to bear. Zoom is still a very viable platform, and we are still a wholesale distributor of that product and Zoom-certified equipment, but it isn’t growing in the way it used to. By making their equipment interoperable, Microsoft and Cisco are laying the ground for Webex-Teams interconnections. It’ll be very interesting to see how that develops.
TR: Are you a Cisco distributor?
SM: Yes, for their video products, headsets and their MPP Multiplatform Phone systems, which allow you to connect your Cisco phone to any of their collaboration or hosted telephony systems.
Traditionally, Cisco has directed its attentions to government and major bluechip enterprises. They haven’t been so interested in the SMB end of the market, which is great for us because they’ve used us to look after fulfilment for their smaller customers.
What Cisco realised was that Microsoft was quite quickly mopping up the SMB market and then migrating upwards, so allowing Teams to work natively on its equipment is a defensive move to stop Microsoft coming into that mid to large enterprise space – Government and major institutions and multinational organisations.
TR: How has your relationship with Midwich evolved since the acquisition? Are you run as an independent part of the Group?
SM: Throughout the acquisition process, and when they were courting us before that, Midwich made a point of explaining that their model is to buy a business and then let that business run. And in the 12 months since they have been true to their word. Their opinion is that they tried to do UC but couldn’t manage it on their own, so they chose to buy a business that was really good at it. So, why would they want to change it?
We have regular video conferences, but otherwise there’s little interaction. There are some things we’ve had to change. Being part of a PLC has impacted turnaround times for financial reporting, for example, and there has been some expansion of roles, with Nimans personnel taking on group-wide roles in areas like credit control and leasing and finance. But overall, we’ve had all the benefits of joining what is now a £1.2 billion business and no drawbacks. It’s a very healthy relationship.
TR: So, what are some of the benefits of being part of Midwich Group?
SM: Firstly, joining such a large and successful multinational business gives us scale; we’ve got more buying power and greater reach. Nimans was always a UK and Ireland-focused business, but now, being part of Midwich, we can talk to a vendor about distribution across Europe, the US and Asia.
Having a global footprint is very useful when dealing with vendors that might be looking at multinational distribution arrangements as part of a rationalisation of their own programmes. It also has implications for things like the support services we provide. For resellers with deployments spanning Europe or even the world, we can now offer the reassurance of 24/7 support. We have businesses to help with that in America, UK/Europe and Asia, so there’s someone available in every time zone even if it is just to take a ticket and make sure somebody gets a response.
And, of course, it gives us access to AV product sets that we didn’t have before, which presents significant cross-selling opportunities. For example, we sell hundreds of Microsoft Teams systems every month, but we weren’t always attaching a screen to them. Now, when we sell a Teams system we can source a screen to go with it from Midwich, and when Midwich sell a screen they can add a Teams system from us. There are great synergies there.
Something that became apparent during the acquisition is that there is very little crossover in our customer bases. Where it does exist, the reseller can choose which business they want to deal with. Nimans or Midwich will do all the logistics and provide the customer with one invoice for all the equipment no matter where individual elements were sourced from.
TR: As well as serving the needs of resellers and MSPs, you also
distribute a diverse range of technology products to retailers like Amazon, Very, Argos and Currys. Is that a big part of your business?
SM: We are predominantly a UC distributor – that’s the largest part of our business – and more recently security. As you say, we also have Nimans Home, which distributes more than 200 technology brands to 400 UK retailers. We are the sole distributor for anything branded BT, from BT baby monitors through to whole-home Wi Fi mesh systems, which means there are some unusual technologies in our home range. Baby monitors are not something you’d associate with Nimans.
Nimans Home is a healthy part of the business, probably accounting for 15% to 20% of turnover. It’s been stable over the last two years, but we’re adding different products all the time. The team have just been out at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas looking for what the next big things will be on the consumer electronics side.
Smart home is one area I’m expecting to grow strongly now that they’ve established a new standard, Matter, backed by all the big peripheral manufacturers like Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung. To date, many people who aren’t tech savvy have shied away from smart home devices because they’re not sure what route to go down. Matter removes this problem by enabling interoperation between devices and platforms from different manufacturers so that theoretically everything should work with everything else. Almost everything seen by our team at CES in Las Vegas is Matter-compatible, so the standard has really taken off since it was introduced in October and that should encourage more people to embrace the smart home concept.
TR: What are your priorities for 2023?
SM: We’re keeping a weather eye on the economy. We’re organising ourselves for the growth in collaboration, which is continuing. There’s also the Big Switch Off coming in two years’ time, which I don’t think most UK businesses are aware of or have on their radar. That’s another area of growth we see coming that we’re gearing up for. And we’re about to launch what we call our One Plan embracing all areas of sustainability across four pillars – community, business, vendors and customers (see next month’s issue for more details).
TR: Both Midwich and Nimans have made successful acquisitions in the past. Are these likely to be part of your growth strategy in the future?
SM: Nycomm Group, which owned Nimans before selling it to Midwich, made a string of acquisitions, starting with Rocom in 2009, then Videonations in 2013, Pennine Group in 2016 and Yellowbus, all now operating as reseller brand Avoira, which was not included in the Midwich deal. So, acquisitions are something we’ve always been interested in and will continue to look out for. Midwich recently announced it was more than doubling the size of its acquisition pot, and it’s nice to have a bigger purse to dip into.
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