The number of Kutchenhaus shops has been growing over the past year. Jens Klar, head of Kutchenhaus at Nobilia, and Charles Thomas, head of UK sales and operations, speak to Vicki Evans about the growth of the Kutchenhaus and Nobilia.
Q: How has Küchenmeile been for you this year?
Charles Thomas: It has been very busy. We have had a lot of people come around and they have been very excited about the new bathroom and bedroom range. I think the general feeling is that people are very positive.
Jens Klar: I am astonished by the work that our interior architects and designers are doing to make this all happen. I have the feeling that each year they go one step better.
Q: How has business been over the past year?
JK: We are growing from month to month and now we have 19 franchise stores and three of our own. We do not advertise a lot that we are a franchise company – it is more by word of mouth through the franchisees. The franchisees have friends and business partners that see that this is working. So, new franchisees see that and think ‘wow, how can we make this work too?’ Also our original franchises are opening their second or third showrooms.
Q: What is the plan for Brexit?
JK: We don’t know what will happen and there is a lot of uncertainty. We believe that we are well prepared for Brexit. It doesn’t matter what happens, as we have such a wide range of products.
CT: The value of the pound has gone down by about 15% against the euro. But it hasn’t really affected our performance. It maybe has made our kitchens ever so slightly more expensive, but in the scheme of things that it is nothing. If people want a German kitchen, they will still get a German kitchen. We aren’t seeing that our sales are being hit at all, but who knows if that will continue.
Q: With strong competition out there, how are you helping your franchises?
JK: Ourselves and our competitors are all more or less working with the same ingredients, like the same components or chipboard. On one hand, we have a good product at a good price and on the other hand, are the designers who don’t necessarily have the experience in business or marketing to start their own business. So, we are supporting them with all of the commercial aspects and it is so that they can focus on designing and selling the kitchens.
Q: What can the English learn from Germany?
JK: Every market has its own rules. But is there something in particular that the English need to learn from Germany? I would say no, because each market has its own rules and we have to adjust to the local environment. You have to focus on the local situation. It is always good to look at other countries and see their best-practice solutions and ask ‘would this make sense in my market? Is this something I should try in my market?’ You just have to try it.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for Kutchenhaus at the moment?
JK: To make sure that, with a growing number of stores, we are always ready to give the right support and service. That is for me the challenge when you are growing so fast as a business. Our goal is not to grow the number of stores, but to make our franchises money and to make sure that they are selling kitchens. To make sure that they are profitable.
Q: What makes a manufacturer successful?
JK: I have been in the company for 14 years and I am convinced Nobilia is successful in the market because we think it is important to listen. You listen to your customers and follow the customer’s wish. That is the success story of Nobilia, because the customer knows their market. The customer knows what they want. The franchise business is still quite new.