Lewis Moncrieff joined 60-year-old appliance retailing and contracting business, George Robertson Ltd, on the Shetland Islands when he was just 15 and recently spearheaded the company’s move into designing and supplying Nolte kitchens
Q: What’s the company’s background and how did you end up selling kitchens in Shetland?
A: George Robertson Ltd is the Shetland’s leading appliance retailer and electrical contractor, and has been established for over 60 years. I joined the business when I was 15 years old as an appliance engineer, graduating to an electrician and finally acquiring the business, originally with three other partners.
Appliance retailing has been the core business supplying both freestanding, built-in and commercial appliances, along with associated services including appliance repairs and servicing, lighting design and installation, electrical maintenance and contracting. In addition, the company also sells a comprehensive range of brown goods.
The company now employs 22 full-time members of staff and is currently expanding rapidly.
The expansion of the business has been driven by the divergence into selling kitchens. It is something that I had been thinking about for some time. We often had enquiries for new appliances, but we found ourselves losing out to those who were supplying the kitchens.
My interest was piqued further when we had a very timely call from Bill Miller, managing director of the Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG). I expressed my interest of diversifying into kitchens and Bill visited us to discuss it further. He helped us enormously with his invaluable industry knowledge and experience, advising us of the kitchen furniture brands available from the buying group.
We decided on the Nolte brand, as it was unavailable elsewhere on the island and was pitched mid to high end, which suited our customer profile.
It took us around eight months to complete the showroom and we have five displays. We have been incredibly pleased with the sales and have turned over around £203,000 since we began and are well ahead of the sales target set by Nolte. We are comfortably selling around one to two kitchens a week, which seems right for us at the moment.
Our kitchen designer, Sarah Groat, is someone without any kitchen design experience, because we wanted someone with a totally fresh approach and new ideas. The KBBG helped us out by guiding us to the tools we needed for planning and designing the kitchens. We use CompuSoft Winner, which is really user-friendly and allows us to create advanced kitchen designs, while Nolte trained us on the furniture.
Nolte has been our safety net. We send our designs to them to be checked. They advise and suggest ideas that would work better and will even redraw the plans for us. This is immensely helpful, and extremely useful, and makes sure that we get it right without making any expensive mistakes.
The potential for the business is very promising. There is a tremendous expansion of the housing market and this is an area that we very much want to get involved with, in time.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges?
A: Getting the design right has been a challenge at times, and we are so glad of Nolte’s support.
With measurements that customers bring to us to work from, despite their assurances that they are correct, we know we have to make a site visit to check – as they are more than often incorrect.
Q: Are you going to kbb Birmingham in March?
A: We are very much looking forward to visiting kbb Birmingham in March. We will be aiming to broaden our kitchen furniture offer to complement Nolte. We will also be on the lookout for new and interesting suppliers, including sinks and taps. Our first port of call, however, will be to visit the KBBG stand and to meet suppliers and fellow independent kitchen specialists.