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  29 September 2011

PROFILE: Miele and Coghlan's cookery school

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Miele has signed a deal with the Coghlan's cookery school near Sheffield to promote its cooking credentials. But what's in it for both sides, and how can retailers benefit? Andrew Davies went to find out...

It's not uncommon for major appliance brands to have their own home economists and endorsements from well known chefs.  Premium names such as Neff, AEG, Scholtès and Miele have always promoted themselves to those consumers who fancy as cooks, but on the whole it has always been difficult for the average retailer to really let potential clients try the products out in a detailed meaningful way.

As the market has become polarised in the downturn - with the middle market in particular suffering - the focus on these premium customers has become more important than ever, illustrated by significant activity and product development from the companies listed above as well as the likes of Siemens, KitchenAid and others.

Miele has made a serious effort to underline its cooking credentials with both consumers and its independent retailers by joining up with Coghlans Cookery School near Sheffield. The husband and wife operation of Andrew and Janet Coghlan is, unlike other similar schemes, a dedicated school rather than classrooms attached to a restaurant and, as a result, is actually situated in an industrial trading estate.

While this sounds lacking culinary atmosphere, it actual means there is plenty of parking outside, and plenty of elbow room inside. The school grew out of a wine business and the large building also incorporates a small warehouse, wine and kitchenware shop but the cookery school classroom and workstations have just had a major makeover with Miele providing all the appliances - including coffee machines in reception and dishwashers and wine coolers in the dining area.

In return, Coghlans displays its association with the company wherever possible, including offering 'Let's Do Lunch with Miele' two-course lunches and product demos for £25. They will also run cooking demos and wine tasting events at Miele's Abingdon HQ and its Wigmore Street flagship showroom.

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So apart from the products themselves what does Coghlan's get out of the relationship?

"The similarity between us and Miele is that we've both always sold on quality," says Andrew Coghlan (pictured left). "Yes, it's affordable in terms of price and value, but it's not the primary motivation, you just want the product as you feel it fits you."

 

While Miele have provided the significant number of appliances, Coghlan estimates that the entire school makeover represents an investment of £40,000 - £50,000.

"Miele has obviously supported us with showcasing the equipment we have and when we're starting to look at a five to 10 year relationship, it's a great deal for both of us," he says. "We're not here to sell the products, but everyone always admires the equipment, even if they're not on a specific Miele day. What we really need now as a link to make the whole thing work is for the Miele dealers to realise the benefits of this to their businesses."

And it is this link with retailers that Miele's marketing director Dominic Worsley (right) particularly highlights as a key driver for the company - yes, interested consumers are actively using the products, about 3,300 last year, but retailers unable to demonstrate the products in the showroom can send customers along to the school and that's a major selling point.

"It's about letting the consumers play with the products in an environment that's perfect for them," he says. "But it's also about supporting the dealers with a fantastic resource. They can send their potential customers on a course and see the benefits of technologies like steam or induction where they wouldn't have the chance before."

The increasing activity of relative newcomers like Scholtès has undeniably put Miele under pressure with its independent retailers and, for Worsley, initiatives like the deal with Coghlans demonstrate a new approach.

"It's part of a wider focus on independent dealers, we want to help them trade people up and this is a great way to demonstrate and use the products in person," he says. "We want to put more resource into dealers and work with them to make sure their customers choose Miele."

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