Ripples MD Paul Crow reports on the findings in the kbbreview Retailer Survey 2018
As kbbreview hits its 400th edition, I think it’s important to acknowledge the huge role that trade publications play in helping the industry.
Beyond reporting on what is going on, journalists have a unique perspective from their crow’s nest (so to speak), objectively observing the landscape as it changes around us.
That is why the kbbreview Retailer Survey 2018 [pages 64 – 68] is such an excellent research paper. Understanding what we can learn from the kitchen industry is of huge importance to our growth and survival. And let’s face it, being captain of your own ship can be a lonely place when the weather turns.
Having studied the report, my advice to anyone wanting to improve their independent bathroom and/or kitchen business is to skip straight to the comments from showroom owners that are experiencing growth and do what they do. The gulf between the attitudes reported in this survey helps explain many, but not all, of the conclusions.
It also highlights some fundamental issues, such as developing good quality installers. However, before we rush out to train more, we need to recognise that someone is also fitting all the products sold online. And, with so many bathroom retailers not including installation as part of the service, perhaps that is something that has to change. After all, none of the kitchen retailers were reporting issues with online retailers and they have theirs in-house.
Marketing came up quite a bit in the report and it amazes me that 43% of retailers think less than half of their customers go to their website before visiting their shop. Really? I would say they are grossly underestimating and undervaluing the role of their website, and if that is the case, they’re probably not investing enough in it either. At Ripples, that figure is more than 90%, if not higher, and we have one page alone that has had over 120,000 views – and it’s just a blog.
Shout about it
If we all agree that independent retailers add huge value and improve sales, and this report proves we do, why aren’t we telling everyone we do and providing evidence of it?
Perhaps some of the industry veterans highlighted in this report could hand over their marketing to their sons or daughters and focus instead on their strengths. As a clue, if you wiggle your fingers over an imaginary typewriter when you say the word online, you shouldn’t be in charge of your website.
Veterans have huge experience and knowledge and this would be better served if documented, photographed and explained through the various digital platforms that are the norm for the ‘kids’ – who are in fact the same age as your customers.
I hear what’s being said in the survey about transactional websites (90% don’t have one), but I personally don’t see that as the answer. If anything, I think it could make it worse as people rush out to install Shopify-type systems and neglect the values that cannot be replicated online or by the multiples. The companies that are good at online retailing are good at it because they are good at online retailing.
It also surprised me that Bathstore wasn’t seen as competition, but online retailers were. Isn’t that what they do well, too? Surely most would benefit from Bathstore customers walking into their showroom, or visiting their website – or are we snobbishly saying we don’t want them? I believe Ripples can take orders from some of their customers and that is despite us being known for our ‘posh’ showrooms.
With complaints about supplier stock levels and service, it is very clear that we all trade with different types of customers and perhaps some of us with all types. In my experience, the customers who need products that week or the next day are typically buying on price and are therefore very difficult to satisfy with added value. That said, I recognise that contract customers and their routine purchases can often be very last-minute – but they are also worth having. So, whether we like it or not, service and stock levels need to improve.
Those who want a complete turnkey solution clearly don’t need the goods for two to three months. The more you promote yourself as a bathroom retailer, and less a supplier of products, the more these customers will visit.
One thing that everyone agreed on in the survey was that good independent retailers can do a better job of selling products and adding value than anyone else. So all some independents need to do is be bold and market themselves better.
The demand is there, I truly believe that. And once consumers are in your showroom, they will understand what you do and why you care so much.
So will they really go and buy elsewhere? I don’t think so.
- For the full survey results see kbbreview January issue, pages 64-68