Photography News | Issue 32 | absolutephoto.com
Profile Nigel Fielden MAC Group Europe has recently celebrated its first birthday, so we caught up with MAC Group’s managing director, Nigel Fielden, to see how they’re ‘doing things differently’
Years in the photo industry? More than 35 Current location The office is in Wolverhampton but we live in a small Staffordshire village. Last picture taken There’s a picturesque canal running through the village where we live – even though we’ve been there for 25 years I never get tired of capturing the colours of the boats and the smoke from their chimneys through the arched bridges in the evening light. When youwere younger, what did youwant to bewhen you grewup? An electronics engineer. I was always fascinated by taking things apart, putting them back together again – and seeing them work! Dogs or cats? Cats Toast or cereal? Cereal Email or phone call? Email – I work across several time zones, so this works best most of the time.
How did you get into this industry? Well, that’s quite a long story! While at university in London I started working at Leeds Camera Centre (now part of Calumet). The job was working in the basement, packing up orders, shipping them and delivering them to photographers around London. When the owner, Malcolm Whittle, set up the Flash Centre to distribute Elinchrom lighting, I joined him there, repairing flashes and eventually building a team which designed and launched new products – some of which were still in the market until very recently! After that I joined Paterson, initially in another technical role but then I was soon dragged into managing sales and eventually general management. In 2000, when the owner of Lowepro was looking to set up distribution in Europe, he got in touch and we set up the business which is now called DayMen, which grew to distributing Lowepro in six countries and managed distributors in another 50 or so. MAC Group is a new name to the UK – how did the business come about? Historically, MAC Group was very strong in the USA and China. The owners were looking for ways to improve their distribution in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. The owner of MAC Group, Jan Lederman, called me out of the blue to ask for advice and I developed a plan. Part of the plan was to set up a business to directly manage the key markets of UK, France and Germany, building on what we inherited from the previous distributors and growing the business in a structured way. When I presented the plan, Jan asked me if I would join the team to bring the plan to life – and here we are! You’ve gone from 0-60 in a very short space of time – how have you pulled together such a strong team so quickly? It’s simple really – it’s all about the people and their experience. I was lucky to be able to recruit experts in each specific field who were excited to come on board. For example, Gary Sutton, who has solid experience in camera sales and has now moved to the ‘dark side’ of accessories as our sales director, and Mark Hoskins, who must be the industry’s most-experienced tripod brand manager. Most of our teamwas hand-picked from a group of people we know and trust. It’s no coincidence that several members of the team are enthusiastic and very experienced photographers – they can understand the needs of end users and the trade alike. We try to understand what both trade and end users need – and how these needs change – it’s about balance within the business and passion for the industry. Our team has significant experience on the logistics side too, having set up this type of distribution business before. We know what works and importantly, how to keep the business efficient, streamlined and responsive in a changing economic climate. We also have experience of working across the UK and Europe – so again this enables us to move quickly, with confidence and build strong foundations on which to grow further.
What’s the MAC mission? Ourmission is to be different: to offer real support to retailers, working to ensure good margins and working closely with our partners to enable jointly successful relationships. We enjoy bringing to market very desirable products that consumers want to buy – all of our products are designed and built to a desired quality level rather than a price point. So if we want to use the best materials and the latest engineering techniques, we do. We’re not controlled by hitting a price point, it’s all about quality, usability and innovation. Ultimately, our main aim is to support the industry, driving business both into stores, where staff are interested and committed to selling our products, and online for those buyers who choose to shop there. It’s not about flooding the market via every possible outlet, it’s all about focusing on the best products and key relationships with trade partners who add value. Because we’re not part of a big corporate, we can choose to do the right thing. All tripods are the same, right? Wrong! It’s a common myth though. Our factory makes all of our own tripods – and only ours. This includes Induro, Benro and MeFOTO (and Tenba bags too) – but the factory doesn’t make products for anyone else. The factory itself is mind-blowing – amazing engineering capability, massive investment and commitment to quality. We hope to take our media contacts out to China soon – just to see the technology and care taken in the manufacture of our products. Why three tripod brands? We’re targeting all levels of photographer – from people who want
a no-nonsense, durable product, those who want a decent high-spec tripod with a twist of colour thrown in, through to the most demanding pro who’s out shooting in the harshest conditions and wants to carry as little weight as possible. You mentioned Tenba – where does that fit in? The changing trends in hardware and the increasing move to lighter mirrorless systems means we’re spending more time on research and development than ever to ensure our products meet the needs of the consumers and exceed expectations. That said, we’ll continue to support the core DSLR market which still makes up a large segment of the market. As I mentioned earlier, our products are not designed to match a price point – so we’re always looking at the best materials, zips, fastenings etc. – and if silent Velcro is the best, but costs a bit more, then so be it! Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make the best products. What’s next for MAC? Well, we’re seeing exponential success with Phottix, our lighting brand, which has just been awarded a TIPA award – and the marketing for that exciting brand continues. I started out in lighting, so this one is very close to my heart! We’re also continuing to invest resources in finding the best trade partners to work with – although having said that, we’re not planning to over-distribute within every possible channel as others have. Our aim is to work with key partners, to add real value to those relationships and ensure profitable business for all going forward.
Because we’re not part of a big corporate, we can choose to do the right thing
Images, clockwise fromtop left Phottix Indra 500TTL and Odin II, MeFoto Daytrip mini tripod and 4vdesign ALA strap.
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