Amazon takes on indies with own installation service

Amazon has launched an installation service that uses local tradesmen to install products bought online from its website.

Products that Amazon offers to install include built-in and freestanding washing machines, fridges, built-in ovens and hobs, TVs, projectors, smart home security systems, lighting and thermostats.

Customers purchasing goods on Amazon can simply choose the installation option, which is added to their basket, and book an appointment when they check out. Amazon said that payment is only taken once the job is completed and is offering a ‘Happiness Guarantee’.

The installation service, which is called Amazon Home Services, is being offered to “hundreds of postcodes” in Greater London, South-East England, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Midlands, Southend, Reading, Slough, Southampton, Watford, Medway, Colchester, Chelmsford, Guildford and “other cities in the UK”.

Example prices quoted on the site include TV wall-mounting for sets between 51in and 65in, with cables inside a cable cover not chased into walls, for an “estimated” £145 and a built-in washing machine for around £84, although this does not appear to include removal of an old machine or disposal of packaging.

Amazon already offers this service in the USA.

Commenting on the move, Scott Webster, general manager of Amazon Home Services Europe, said: “We’re thrilled to be expanding Amazon Home Services to the UK as a simple way to book trusted, service professionals. Following our successful launch in the US, customers have told us they love the convenience and peace of mind that comes with trusted, professional installation of their products. We’re delighted to be able to offer this same experience to UK customers through a network of handpicked, local tradespeople and service providers.”

But who are these tradespeople? On its site, Amazon says: “Our site offers professional services from a variety of service providers including plumbers, electricians, assemblers, handymen, and home-cinema specialists. All service providers on Amazon have been hand-picked and invited to participate. Each provider is required to carry necessary insurance, licences, and certifications as applicable by law.”

Asked about how Amazon selected its tradesmen, a spokesman said: “The services are sold by a range of hand-picked small businesses, local tradesmen and third-party service providers. Recruitment was initially by invitation-only and all providers were screened through a combination of interviews and reference checks. In addition, we background-check all technicians that will enter a customer’s home and contractually require providers to carry necessary licensing and insurance. We work with a variety of government agencies and third-party companies to background check technicians, we also validate the quality of our providers to ensure they meet a high performance bar.”

On its site, Amazon is inviting professional tradesmen to sign up to be part of its installation service. It cites benefits as being “zero set-up costs, no lead-chasing” and says that it will take a fee of 20 per cent on the proportion of a job up to £1,000 and 15 per cent for the part over £1,000.

Is this service a threat to independent retailers that have always prided themselves on offering services such as installations?

Matthew Todd, proprietor of H Todd & Son in York, said: “It could work with simple installs, but what about a whole home-cinema system? It will live or die by the quality of the service it provides. Would we join such a scheme? We have looked at similar schemes in the past, but payments were too low. How much of the fee would we end up with? I think customers will be better off with their local independent.”

Matt Renaut, managing director of Dacombes of Wimborne, said he does not see the service as a great threat to his business: “Customers do like to get the purchase and install package all in one place. It probably won’t affect us, as we sell more premium TVs that aren’t on Amazon. It will likely affect those at the bottom end of the market more.”

Commenting on Amazon’s decision to offer installation, Retra chief executive Howard Saycell told ERT: “This is a bold move. It gives them the opportunity to own the sale from end to end. The proof of the pudding will be on delivering their promise. Many Retra members already offer this type of service and, in fact, have built their businesses around a quality service.

“In the ever more connected world, this type of service is becoming increasingly complex and the consumer ever more demanding. Most of our members have been in business for many years and have served their local community, building up high levels of trust, in some cases with generations of the same families.

“While I’m sure there will be a demand for this new Amazon service, we believe that consumers will still want to trade with their local, trusted retailer, rather than someone they have never heard of from the internet.”