KBB studios have hit back at kitchen designer Diane Berry over claims that dealers who avoid putting their regular subcontracted installers on their books are ‘cheating’ and putting the end consumer at serious risk.
Berry, who employs a dedicated team of fitters, told kbbreview that it was “wrong that kitchen companies use the same subcontracted fitters all year round” and “a cheat in so many ways”.
But her comments have quickly sparked a flurry of angry responses from dealers and installers, many insisting that subcontracting is a better approach for both sides.
“How dare Diane Berry insult our loyal, fabulous and hard working sub-contractors in this wonderful industry of ours?” said Bob Knowles, a partner at kitchen and bedroom studio System 35 in Huddersfield. “Who does she think she is, calling us all ‘cheats’?
“Our teams of installers are a very proud bunch of guys doing a legally paid professional job, paying their taxes when due, paying into their own pension schemes and indeed enjoying some well earned holidays too!
“Please, Diane, have your opinions of course, but don’t assume your way is the only way to run a successful, established, law-abiding business.”
Knowles admitted that the company had previously had installers on its books and that Berry was “not wrong in her thinking”. But he reminded her that many fitters installed for other independents in their area and preferred to remain “in control of their own destiny”.
Dave Jarvis, managing director of Albion Bathrooms, Kitchens and Electricals in Burton-on-Trent, said Berry’s comments were “unrealistic in a modern economy”.
“Certainly in my area any good tradesman/fitter is going to want a take-home pay of at least £40k to equal the earnings they are getting working for themselves,” he said. “As Diane points out, business is hard to come by and hard to win, so adding this sort of figure to the selling price over a year will make it even more so, especially if you are like us and have five fitters working for you. We are only doing what the Government told the NHS to do years ago – contracting out to reduce costs and keep the standards the same.”
Meanwhile, Mark Earles, proprietor of Mark Earles and Son in Lincoln, said that most of the installers he knew would “never dream of going ‘cards in’ as they simply wouldn’t earn enough”.
“Although saying they employ their own fitters sounds good in the sales pitch, I doubt that Diane Berry pays these top tradespeople the £75k to £100k that they could earn self-employed – more like £30k, if they are very lucky,” he said. “But I’m not knocking the guys that choose to be employed, as self-employment isn’t for everyone.
“As for being ‘cheated’, it’s all about choice and, for the most part, they choose self-employment.”