07 January 2011

New year, new start?

Andrew Davies
Happy New Year! Not sure you can still legally say that on January 7, but what the hell, I like to live life on the edge of social niceties.

As I walked down Oxford Street in London's glittering West End yesterday morning, virtually every shop window had some bored looking employees peeling Christmas related stickers off the glass. It's officially over and 2011 can begin (and the Valentines Day and Easter displays can go up).

So it's 2011 and I, like many of you I'm sure, have made some New Year resolutions - mainly involving less Jaffa Cakes and more moving about. I thought, however, that it was worth running through 10 New Year resolutions that I think the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industry should think about for 2011.  Let me know what you think and what I've missed out.

In no particular order...

1) Cheer up a bit
The last couple of years have been dreadful, and in that environment it's easy to get stuck in the habit of always looking at the negative. But the signs are there that the worst is past, things are starting to pick up and while it's still difficult there will be no more surprises. A positive approach can often produce positive results.

2) Try something new
Many retailers (and manufacturers) have expanded their ranges or moved into new areas in a bid to keep business going. This approach is not for everyone of course but it does demonstrate how important it is to never rest on laurels and always blame 'the market' for falling sales. Try a new bit of propping, a new showroom layout, new opening hours, new website, new lightbulbs - anything that makes you look at your business with fresh eyes.

3) Communicate more
This is an old chestnut I know, but this industry needs to talk to each other more and share experiences and influence. The extreme of this is calls for a new association or organisation, but it could just mean getting to know the other retailers in your local area and seeing if there's any way to help each other.

4) Communicate even more
The kitchen industry needs to learn more about bathrooms and vice versa. You're all in the same market but there are vast differences in the way you operate. Bathrooms, for example, have much stronger representation through the BMA - in kitchens, on the other hand, there's a much better relationship between product developers and retail designers.

5) Get online

I know, I know, the internet is a bit of a swear word around these parts but it's a massive influence on how people live their lives - and it will only get bigger. If you're not investigating ways to exploit it in a way that's right for you then you should be. Right now. Seriously.

6) Data is king
Information is the new currency in the business world, from the biggest corporations to the smallest independent. The data you collect and maintain on your customers, contacts, suppliers, potential customers etc is as much an asset to your business as the showroom you're standing in. If it's all in your head, then it's worthless.

7) Compete on service, not price
Hey, I didn't say they'd all be easy did I?

8) Get out more

Retailers are very guilty of not looking beyond their own High Street and have a reputation in the wider industry of only leaving their showroom if they're offered a golf day or a night at a swanky hotel. There are good very reasons for this, your own business must come first, but you're missing out on opportunities that can have long term commercial benefits.

9) Cash is also king
The retailers that went under in the first half of the recession weren't the ones whose sales fell away, it was those who didn't manage their cash well enough during the boom times. Being a good designer, salesman or fitter doesn't necessarily immediately make you a good accountant. Get expert help if you need it.

10) Enter the kbbreview Industry Awards
Cut me some slack, I waited until the last one didn't I? I know it's a plug but I genuinely believe the real value in our awards is the way winners and finalists can use them to promote their businesses. It gives you a story to tell and that's always invaluable. It's a great night out and we can all have a drink but the marketing possibilities last all year. You've got til January 24th and all the details are here...

What do you think? Email the editor