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Former Ampco Belgium man launches FACE

The launch of FACE marks the end of one of Belgium's leading audio and light sales companies, but also provides a solid platform for the future, notes Marc Maes.

Karel de Piere, CEO of Ampco Belgium and a familiar name to readers of PSNE, has launched his own stand-alone business, FACE.

Earlier this year, de Piere sold his shares in Ampco Flashlight Holding BV and split off the Belgian audio (Ampco Belgium) and light (Candela) business sections, paving the way for a new approach. “The choice was pretty personal but it was inspired by the market,” explains de Piere. “We see manufacturers that constantly review their sales channels, switching between exclusive distribution, sales direct to multiple channel or setting up regional offices in Europe; the time when brand exclusivity was obvious is being questioned.
 “On the client side we have noticed a trend of diversification. Instead of concentrating on sound, light or video, they tend to offer the whole package in rental, install or retail: specialised stores for musicians now also include DJ gear and small PA sets; installers tend to quote for all audiovisual techniques in projects; and rental companies aim to offer one-stop shop facilities. In my view, companies are increasingly becoming multidisciplinary audiovisual players.”
Ampco Belgium was launched in 1992 as an audio distribution company; in 2002 it joined Ampco Flashlight Holding, as part of a group with activities in rental, sales and manufacturing.
 De Piere says Ampco-Candela has been actively building its reputation in the market for many years. The company, which combines direct sales, project sales and distribution, has always been driven to create knowledge-based added value, organising training sessions, seminars and workshops to achieve this. “This added value transforms the ‘distributor’, a logistic local partner for the manufacturer, into a service solution company going beyond the pure distribution,” he explains.
 With FACE, which launched 1 October, de Piere wants to clearly communicate that added-value element, offering more than just products and the creation of a new sales concept. “I decided to step away from rental and manufacturing and focus on sales to professional users, project installs and a dealer network,” he continues. “Many major companies already offer low-cost products alongside their premium pro gear – and we want to assess both sides of the market: through our dealer network catering for semi-professional users and consumers – and the AV users through integrators up to the top end professional user.”
 De Piere says FACE is eyeing three segments: in addition to the professional users in the entertainment business like broadcast, theatres and rental companies, he sees communication in audiovisual application as a second segment (like at the box office of the Sportpaleis venue where FACE supplied individual speaker systems as a teaser for the brand). A third element is architecture: FACE is providing high-end equipment for the illumination of buildings and monuments, such as the Matisse Museum in France. “Actually, the visual technology, such as control and animation software, is quite similar to that used during Robbie Williams’ live concerts,” de Piere adds.
 FACE takes on the brands distributed by Ampco Belgium/Candela before, including Martin Audio, Audio-Technica, Media Matrix, Powersoft, Behringer and MA Lighting, ETC, Philips Vari*Lite plus Arkoas, Hantarex, Traxon, E-cue for video.
 De Piere is convinced that offering software alongside hardware guarantees a reliable business relationship: sales companies that can supply their clients with the best product for their specific application at a competitive price and offer services and maintenance, will remain a very valid model.
 “We combine these ingredients with a selection of brands we believe in,” de Piere enthuses. “Quality equipment at correct rates, backed by manufacturers who give us the tools to advise our clients on what they buy and how to use it: a combination of hardware, software and service.”
 To this end, de Piere also provides a showcase venue in FACE’s Boom headquarters where equipment can be tested and demonstrated. The upper floor academy room has a glass wall looking over the showcase hall so that clients, engineers and people attending seminars or workshops can receive live demonstrations of the products.
 Although FACE is not positioning itself as a pure system integrator, de Piere insists that collaboration with some clients needs to go beyond the sales aspect. “We place ourselves as an audiovisual project management partner and concept engineering partner, an AV specialist spokespartner in projects for consultants, architects, system integrators up to end-users,” he explains. “We talk to the decision makers to hear what they need to fulfil their demands and, in the end, the clients opt for a specialised integrator, a contractor or a tender assignment. FACE concentrates on sales but offers implementation service separately as a bonus – as is the case with the Plopsa entertainment park where we took on the installation of hardware and software of the audio system plus maintenance from A to Z.
 “In the case of the LED-illuminated cooling towers in Herstal, we supplied the controlling software together with the contractor installing the LED matrix and lights.”
 De Piere believes that the combination of hardware, software and service is a nice challenge – rather than looking for synergies between rental, sales and manufacturing (“we saw our sales division selling gear to our competitors”), the future for FACE will lie in a synergy between the integration of audio, lights and video for the professional user, the project market and our reseller network.
 With FACE, Ampco and Candela will disappear as brand names from the Belgian market, terminating any possible link with rental. To introduce the new name, de Piere has pushed the marketing agenda, such as having the company logo displayed during equipment presentations and in public places, such as the Sportpaleis.
 “From October until March next year, we want to organise dedicated theme days – Produce & Play days – for professional users, including product presentations, a dealer week, and specific audio and video weeks clearly demonstrating where FACE stands for,” concludes de Piere.
 The name (which stands for Foundation for Audiovisual Commerce and Engineering) refers to the fact that it’s a people business, face-to-face, covering the whole AV-spectrum, focused on sales and engineering creative solutions based on application knowledge. All this is backed by ‘historical reputation and expertise’, under the sales company FACE”. He concludes, “…it’s a name with a new message but building further on the past, a name that some people translate as the Fusion of Ampco Candela Enterprises.”