Brian Bell Group investing heavily for growth in its 60th year, says Chairman

Diversified corporate and retail enterprise Brian Bell Group is celebrating its 60th year in 2018. Chairman Ian Clough tells Business Advantage PNG the company is investing in people, infrastructure, and new retail strategies in preparation for its next phase of growth.

Brian Bell’s Ian Clough

‘This year is a real milestone for us. There is only a small number of organisations in Papua New Guinea that have been around longer than 60 years and we are proud of this achievement.

‘We are still building for the future and we are 100 per cent PNG-owned.

‘What started as a small gun shop on Ela Beach in 1958 has grown, as a result of the hard work of thousands, to be one of PNG’s most recognisable brands and a contributor to the economy.’

Investments

Clough says the company is making ‘multimillion kina investments’ in warehousing and distribution, and is expanding its portfolio through property development.

‘On top of our largest distribution centre being built at Gerehu [in Port Moresby], we are building an executive apartment project in Port Moresby that is designed to provide opportunities not only for our own people but for the wider market.

‘There are plenty of business opportunities in PNG.’

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‘In the last two years and the coming two years, the Group will have seen some of our largest infrastructure investments in our history. We are also scoping to expand our Mt Hagen operation in the near future.

‘Our enterprise is evolving in how we think, how we operate, and how we connect globally.

‘PNG is in the early phase of expanding global recognition. The global investors that will be attracted to PNG via APEC and other key programs will bring international brands and companies to our shores.’

Opportunities

Clough says he sees some positive indicators that the economy is beginning to emerge from the downturn.

‘We see some good early signs for activity. It is looking like the next 12-to-18 months are going to be reasonably challenging. The recent earthquake has been devastating for the people in the area affected but we also see some headwinds as a result for the economy.

‘However, after we work through this, we are very positive that business in PNG will see the growth that it has been looking forward to for the last four of five years.’

Clough says there are ‘plenty of business opportunities in PNG’ but says any acquisitions for the Group have to be aligned with the core businesses.

‘The last thing we want to do is distract ourselves with non-core activity that will not drive the outcomes that we need—we don’t want to invest a lot of our technical support team’s energy on trying to significantly fix another business or change it.

‘We are being very selective in what we do. We are investing in our current core infrastructure.’

Clough says the company continues with its foundation of focusing on providing high quality products and after-sales service.

‘Our strategy is to have product ranges that provide our loyal customers a “good, better, best” option.’

‘One of the differentiators with Brian Bell is that customers can come to buy from a wide range of products and know that we will service it after they buy it.

‘We invest in our team’s skills in the technical services area and with product knowledge.

‘We are also investing in our leadership teams. We have more than three generations working within our organisation, with some team members being a part of the journey for over 40 years.’

Value

Brian Bell distribution centre

Clough says the company is increasing its focus on providing value for money.

‘One thing that concerns me is that because we sell quality products with warranties, there is a perception that our product pricing is out of the reach for Papua New Guineans to shop at Brian Bell.

‘Our team has worked very hard on sourcing more actively; finding good quality products at better prices, which shifts that value equation.

‘We won’t ever compromise on quality but we will offer a wider choice to our customers. It is important that our customers know that when they leave with a purchase they have received the right advice, with the best value on a quality product.

‘Our strategy is to have product ranges that provide our loyal customers a “good, better, best” option.’

New retail strategies

Clough says the success of Brian Bell is attributable to the company’s commitment to PNG as well as its innovation and willingness to support the latest products.

He is cautiously looking at e-commerce, but believes ‘doing it slowly and smartly’ is important.

‘You have to secure your payment gateway. There is real fraud risk that needs to be mitigated. There are a number of things that can go wrong working remotely with customers.

‘We are identifying ways to provide our customers with more convenient solutions using e-commerce or visual gateways, but maybe not full online shopping.

‘Another consideration for any e-commerce activity is the cost of data. Data is very expensive in PNG. The more that cost lowers, the more actively customers will engage further in the digital space.

‘We are looking at more immediate ways that we can improve our customers’ shopping experience, including the introduction of improved Gift Card programs, and our new Brian Bell rewards program.

‘We have customers that have shopped with us for over 30 years. A rewards program is key to providing that extra connection and reward for being loyal—plus our on-going global connection with the leading brands.’

Comments

  1. Wow! Brian Bell,, congratulations! It has been the best, and is the best and am 100% sure it will still be the best in the futurr simply because I believe that Brian bell company has been there ever since, ,providing the best in terms of quality for the people. I am simply humbled by the courage and simplicity it has proven over the years. I don’t know why but speaking of business companies, I think I’m in love with Brian Bell. Great job Brian bell,, keep going!!

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