Retailers have backed proposals for a new trade-only buying group, offering appliance brands exclusively to independent specialists.
The idea is the brainchild of industry veteran Rod Smail (pictured), owner of RJ Smail Sales Agency, and aims to offer dealers an alternative to the newly-established Sirius Kitchen Buying Group.
“I read your story about Sirius, but that is different to what I had in mind,” Smail explained. “They are simply trying to offer the same products at better prices. What the independent wants is a brand solely available to them, not on the internet, backed by good service and reliability with contacts when things go wrong.
“If the dealer is convinced about the product performance and happy to sell it, that is all they want. Brand awareness is a concept, but the real deal is done by the designer. If I can create a brand that fulfils these requirements, I know we’d have a winner – it’s not rocket science.
“Something has to be done so that independent kitchen specialists can compete against the internet when selling appliances. Every time I talk to the dealerships that I do business with, the same comments are raised.
“If we could get enough potential members and could organise the correct buying prices and logistics, we could then be a force to deal with.”
Responding to Smail’s proposals, Stephen Tutt, owner of Omni Home Design in Harpenden, Herts, said a new buying group “is urgently needed to stabilise the kitchen and bathroom market”.
“Manufacturers need showrooms to display their products and educate the public about them,” he explained. “The people doing this need to be protected from the internet, so the public can see and feel what they are buying.
“The same situation has happened in the babycare industry and about 80% of independents have gone out of business. This is starting to happen to this industry and if we want it to stay a competitive market, something needs to happen.”
David Kirkpatrick, owner of Loline Interiors in Biggleswade, Beds, agreed, saying: “I have always thought a trade-only buying group would work, having thought about doing something locally with other independents, but I’ve never got off my backside and done it. Well done to Rod Smail, not only for putting the idea forward for consideration, but for actually wanting to get involved and try and make it happen.”
Austen Skinner, owner of Eden Bathroom Distribution in Carlisle, Cumbria said he “couldn’t agree more” with Smail, but suggested a “trade-only retailer forum” might be a more workable idea. This would allow dealers to contribute their experiences of how manufacturers treat them and what sort of deals they are getting compared with the internet.
“I like Rod’s idea of a buying group, but in this notoriously fickle, disjointed industry, it’s difficult,” Skinner said. “The idea of the forum is it’s crowd-sourced – no fees, no membership no administration. If we expose the good and bad guys, there could even be a regular survey/competition and ranking of suppliers.”
• For more on this story, see our letters pages in the April issue of kbbreview