Now you’re cooking
Independent electrical retailers are increasingly looking to add value to their businesses by offering kitchens as well. Francesca Seden speaks to five retailers that have made the move to see what advice they can offer fellow dealers looking to do the same…
“You won’t survive in this business just shifting boxes”. Independent electrical retailers may well be sick of hearing this, but most will concede it is becoming increasingly true.
One of the ways normally suggested to beat the threat from the internet is to sell a service – to add value. Those services can include custom-install and smart-home solutions or kitchens, and in some cases, both. Many electrical retailers now agree that the only way to make any margin is to diversify and offer the consumer something that online retailers simply cannot.
A number of electrical retailers have already made the step to include kitchens in their offerings, whether this be with a kitchen specialist concession in store, or completely from scratch – installing displays, taking on a kitchen sales designer and contracting fitters to carry out the work. Each of these approaches has its benefits and its drawbacks.
So just how do you get started with selling kitchens? What are the pros and cons? And then, once you’ve made the decision, what are the key things you will need to consider?
Firstly, retailers looking to sell kitchens must pick their approach, and think about what they want to achieve and how quickly. Those wanting to make a bit of extra cash fast, and who don’t want to make a huge investment, might decide on a concession, whereas others might have the confidence and perhaps even the skills within the business, as is the case with Purewell, Nailsea and Stellisons, to go it alone.
Where to begin
Adding a kitchen concession is a simpler way to get started, as you leave the work of selling and installing kitchens to the experts and perhaps get a commission and supply the appliances. The kitchen retailer can also lease a part of the showroom, providing you with income that way. This approach is not as lucrative as going it alone, but the investment in time, training and money won’t be nearly as great either.
Dacombes of Wimborne managing director, Matt Renaut comments: “For an electrical retailer to just jump into this industry would be pretty daunting, so my advice would be to use a company that knows what they’re doing because they will be able to guide you and ensure the kitchen works. That will save a huge amount of time and heartache.
“We have a kind of concession, but we and the kitchen guys work very, very closely together, so if it’s our customer and we sell the kitchen, then we get a small commission and if it’s their customer, then they handle the whole thing themselves. So there’s great synergy there. And we’ll always provide all the appliances, of course.”
Going it alone
If you are thinking of starting from scratch, then there are many things to consider.
Firstly, you need to target the level of the market to which you want to appeal. You must do your research, so that you’re best prepared and know all of the costs involved for everything. As well as your chosen kitchen brand, there are the worktops, sinks and taps, lighting and potentially flooring to consider. Then there are staff costs – the sales designer, the kitchen fitters, electricians and plumbers potentially too.
Ed Griffiths, operations director at Purewell Electrical, reiterates the point: “My advice would be to do it, but remember that it’s a much more involved process than you’re probably used to. Make sure you’ve done your research, make sure you know who you’re dealing with and have a great team behind you.”
Stellisons managing director Steve Scogings has been selling kitchens since the 1980s, and was perhaps the first electrical retailer to do so. He says targeting the right level of the market is crucial before you start.
“If you look to get started at entry level, you’ll be competing with the likes of Howdens and Benchmarx, and aiming at the luxury end might be a bit of a stretch for someone just starting out, so a mid-range product is probably best.”
Once you’ve established what kitchen brand you want to use, you will have to ensure you have the space available to show a good selection of kitchens. Mr Renaut at Dacombes comments: “People like to have choice and want to be able to see plenty of options, so make sure you have a few displays, and that you change them regularly.”
Next, you will need to have someone to design and sell them, as well as a team of fitters.
Mr Scogings notes that good sales designers are very hard to find, and with a skills shortage in the kitchen market, everyone in the kitchen industry knows that good fitters are hard to find too, and can charge a premium. So that is something to bear in mind.
Some retailers take on an established kitchen designer/salesperson, and many in the kitchen industry might recommend this as the best way forward.
Mr Renaut comments that whether you employ a sales designer or train up your own staff to design, you must enlist the input from the expert team of fitters to ensure that the design can be achieved in reality.
Ben Gilks, managing director at Nailsea Electrical, recommends hiring a good kitchen designer, however he also notes that some kitchen suppliers might be willing to help in that department, when you’re just starting out. And that they would even price the kitchen based on the design they had put together.
He explains that when he first started selling kitchens with Caple, the team there would help put designs together. This is not available from many kitchen suppliers, and is probably not a sustainable route in the long term.
If you want to take on a sales designer, take your time to find someone that really fits with the business. If you wish to train your own staff, there are various courses available, including a foundation degree course at Buckinghamshire New University – the only one of its kind in the UK.
Perhaps more appealing for electrical retailers, who may already be CIH/Euronics members, is the training offered by The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG), which has partnered with CIH to offer “a comprehensive kitchen sales support package for CIH members” (see Opinion from KBBG managing director Bill Miller on page 13 and Radiocraft interview, page 44).
According to the KBBG, members will receive kitchen design training from the highly respected, industry professional, Renée Mascari, creative director of Mascari Design, Nottingham, and will be provided with a Winner Design kitchen CAD system from Compusoft.
Not everyone seeks formal training, though, even if that might be the recommended route.
Emma Reed, sales director and kitchen designer at Enterprise 2000, which sells Symphony kitchens, decided to train herself – and the company has, over the past six years, built a reputation as a quality kitchen specialist. It now wins much of its business through referrals from satisfied customers. And she tells ERT that the company is now an Elite Cosentino [worktops] dealer.
Ms Reed admits that it was a steep learning curve and that she made some mistakes, but that she completed a CAD course, using Planit Fusion by 2020 to develop and hone her skills. She also notes the importance of a great installation team to both ensure that her designs are possible and then bring them to fruition to ensure a happy customer.
Another bonus of selling kitchens, whichever approach you take, is that you may find that the order value of appliances increases. Those who are looking to purchase a new kitchen, rather than just a replacement washing machine, will generally be prepared to pay that bit extra, says Ms Reed.
Mr Gilks adds: “My advice for retailers is that kitchens are something you really should be looking at, as you’re selling yourself, and you can’t buy a kitchen on the internet. Make sure you know what area of the market and don’t sell yourself short. A great company to start out with is Caple, because they will help you and they also do appliances.”
All under one roof
So selling kitchens, provided you go into it with your eyes open and a clear idea of what you want to achieve, can be very good for business, and Purewell Electrical even took it one step further, by recently adding a bathrooms concession.
Mr Griffiths comments: “For us, electrical retail is becoming such a commoditised business that we had to make a change. I feel you need to offer something different because the people that are coming to you are slowly dying off, because it seems to be the older generation. People are becoming inherently lazy and that’s why online retail is so successful, but you can’t buy a kitchen online. We’ve also got a bathroom concession. So if people want renovation work done, they can just come to us.”
Mr Scogings at Stellisons notes that for his business in particular, the fitters he uses for custom installation are now also helping with kitchen fits.
So, if you are taking on a team of fitters for kitchens, why not have them handle smart-home, custom-install projects, too – especially with open-plan living meaning that the lounge, dining room and kitchen are merging into one anyway.
So bearing all of this in mind, could electrical retailers who combine kitchens and smart home be the new trailblazers in the home renovation market?
One thing’s for sure, as the electrical retail market becomes increasingly commoditised, retailers must really think about adding at least another added-value string to their bow.
‘It works for both of us…’
Sean Kehoe, director of MK Interiors in Wimborne, explains why he got together with Dacombes of Wimborne and why the partnership benefits both parties…
We didn’t have a showroom and were just selling from brochures. We were selling the whole package – kitchens, sinks and taps, and appliances. Initially, we were just purchasing appliances from AO.com, but I was making absolutely no money on them. All of our profit was in the kitchen furniture and installation.
So we decided that it would be nice to use a local firm for appliances and I approached Matt [Renaut]. We decided we would work together, for us to do the kitchens and them to provide all the appliances. When Dacombes of Wimborne moved premises, Matt called me to suggest I lease some space to showcase some kitchens and I agreed. That was 14 months ago and it works really well.
The main benefit for me is that I can show off the kitchens and not have to worry about appliances. I talk the customer through everything concerning the kitchen, then when it comes to appliances, I pass them over to the Dacombes guys, who have got far greater expertise in that area than I ever could. Any questions the customer has about appliances can be answered by the experts. I no longer need to worry about that side of the business and can just concentrate on the supply and fit.
Another benefit is that the overheads are lower, as we’re paying just for the lease and not a large showroom. It works for both of us, because I bring new business in to the shop, and conversely, someone might come in for a TV and leave thinking about a new kitchen. And as well as supplying appliances, the Dacombes team also helps to sell the kitchens.
All of the appliances in the displays are fully working and can be demonstrated, and we hold regular events – cookery clubs for the local community. In particular, we work with a company called Brendon Care to offer the cookery club twice a month to the older generation in the community. We find that’s a great way of getting people in the showroom, and giving a bit back.