Don’t panic over Alno!

Bodie Kelay, UK managing director of Störmer Kitchens, tells dealers affected by Alno’s insolvency to select an alternative supplier carefully

The Alno UK situation reminds me so much of when I worked for Lager Kitchens, whose parent company (Lager Einbauküchen GmbH) went into receivership in the early 1990s. We had a very profitable and reliable network of dealers with a fabulous UK head office set up. We had the perfect UK sales operation and no product to sell!

When Alno AG announced last that they had stopped production and the administration process had been activated, it was clear that the end was in sight for Alno UK.

Having just returned from 12 days in Germany for the annual MOW furniture fair, one of the main conversations was about Alno – good, bad and indifferent.

Some manufacturers were boasting about how many Alno and in-toto dealers they had taken over. Amazingly, if you added how many they had all converted, it came to four times the number of dealers Alno UK actually had! This is the sad side of our business, the vultures circling the still warm carcass of the victim.

My advice to all independent specialists and franchisees that were being supplied by Alno UK group products is – take your time. Don’t jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Take this opportunity (and it is an opportunity) to research what you really need for your business and your clientèle – don’t just listen to the salesmen queuing at your showroom door. They may tell you they are the “biggest and the cheapest” – you don’t need either of these. You need a quality product, flexibility, reliable with unique selling points and preferably one that hasn’t prostituted the market, squeezing margins for you.

Yes, you need to fulfil outstanding orders, you need to maintain cash flow – you need a product to specify to new leads. Why not use these new ‘suitors’ and try before you buy. Get yourself through this difficult time at your pace. If your new ‘beau’ doesn’t like this arrangement, then let them go.

In-toto franchisees, some of whom are enduring their first manufacturer experience, having ploughed redundancies, inheritances or hard-earned savings into their own kitchen businesses, may not know where to turn. Again don’t panic. I am sure that the in-toto brand will be snapped up quickly.

Is it the end of an era? Or is it the start of the next episode?

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