Dealers and fitters in pricing row

Kbbreview columnist Trevor Scott (pictured), owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, has hit out at BiKBBI chief executive Damian Walters over his claims that independent showrooms don’t pay enough to attract good installers.

Walters had told kbbreview that if retailers want to attract – and retain – great installers, and keep up with a very changing marketplace, “they must be prepared to review pricing and indeed the overall proposition”. He added that retailers should also value and build good relationships with installers and not view them as a “bolt-on” to the product.

However, Scott slammed Walters’s comments as “very unhelpful”.

“I was very disappointed to read Damian Walters’s claims that installers don’t want to work for independents,” Scott said. “He alluded to us retailers not being well organised enough and not good enough payers, saying ‘money talks’. Well thanks, Damian, that’s really helped loads…”

Scott claimed that a lack of apprentices and skilled tradesmen were holding up installations and squeezing retailers’ budgets for a project. This was a situation that would only get worse, he predicted, as apprenticeships are forecast to be down by 27% on last year and the Government will take too long to address the issue.

“We have found ourselves becoming increasingly more involved in organising and managing the kind of building works we wouldn’t have entertained a few short years ago, as consumers can’t find builders to do the smaller jobs, as they’re too busy on bigger projects,” Scott explained. “Yet we’re not a small building firm, we’re kitchen specialists, but the edges are becoming well and truly blurred.”

Damian Walters
Damian Walters

But in response, Walters claimed that Scott was “missing the bigger picture”, and added that with the uncertainty and pressure surrounding the Brexit negotiations it is “no wonder” that education is slipping down the list of priorities.

“As for Trevor’s complaint that he has had to get more involved in organising and managing building work, the fact is we live in a ‘do-it-for-me’ society,” he said. “Evolve and adapt like the rest of the world. It’s like a car garage thinking that consumers should be able to change their own tyres. Rather than bellyache about it, invest in tyre installation as part of your service.”

Walters went on to argue that if retailers want more installers, they firstly need to understand why the industry is where it’s at and invest in the sector in order to reap the rewards. He also said he believed that dealers shouldn’t be surprised that installers would want fair payment terms.

“As an industry, we’ve got a couple of choices,” Walters said. “We can all feel sorry for ourselves, kick the cat and moan about installations as being the bane of our lives. Or perhaps we drop the dated thinking, read, digest and take the time to fully appreciate the research, then consider developing our respective models, with a true understanding of the industry and those installers we wish to engage with.”

He also claimed that retailers have seen installations as a bolt-on to their business for far too long.

“You should be thankful, Trevor, that someone is actually out there asking the opinions of those installers you so dearly seek,” he concluded. “Perhaps if you take the time to understand installers, you may stand a better chance of connecting and retaining their valuable services?

“Instead of viewing installations as a separate part of the industry – the bastard relative that no one likes to invite to Christmas gatherings, how about you try embracing it, work with it, value those tradespeople who represent your brand on the front line and bring installers in from the cold and into the family?”

• For more on this story, see the April issue of kbbreview

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