Kitchen retailer Diane Berry (pictured), owner of Diane Berry Kitchens in Manchester, has claimed retailers who avoid putting their regular subcontracted installers on their books are cheating the system and putting the end consumer at serious risk.
“It’s wrong that kitchen companies use the same subcontract fitters all year round,” the multi-award winning designer told kbbreview. “These men are not subcontract, they are employed, and this loophole is a cheat in so many ways. It infuriates me that this industry doesn’t commit to its tradesmen and that cash work is still a thing with creditable companies – all hidden by the kitchen fitters working directly for the client.
“It’s something nobody wants to talk about but it’s one of the biggest issues in the kitchen industry – and it’s much worse in bathrooms.
“These hard-working installers don’t take the breaks and holidays they should to have a balanced life as they are on a treadmill of money, work, money,” Berry continued. “The retailers don’t pay tax, National Insurance or pensions. They don’t run vans or offer health and safety, so they are happy; the installers get to do cash work and don’t declare much in tax so yes, they’re all happy, until something goes wrong and then the consumers miss out. The consumers think they are buying from a retailer and all too often the installation is a direct contract with the fitter. So where does this leave the consumer? No recall to the retailer and the fitters are long gone and on their next job.”
Berry employs all her fitters in what she calls the “cards in, old school way”, which she claims brings huge benefits to the business.
“We buy their vans, pay for their work boots, their signwritten T shirts and jackets and pay holiday pay,” she said. “They get bank holidays too, we pay pension contributions and take on apprentices and train them to be great tradesmen.”
She admitted her approach “makes selling harder” as her prices are higher but that it was ultimately worth the extra cost.
“I am building a team of tradesmen with the highest of standards and proud to train others,” she said. “Learning on the tools is by far the very best way and they respect my design and sales team just like we respect them.”
Responding to recent claims by BiKBBi CEO Damian Walters that some retailers don’t make installation a fully integrated part of the overall project, Berry insisted that, to her, it was “the most important part of the job”.
“I do not see installation as a ‘bolt on sale’ as we control the quality and have a design team focused on selling enough kitchens to keep our employed tradesmen busy full time,” she explained. “These fitters are the face of our company to the very end of the job and the fact they are employed means a real team spirit as they are with us every step of the way. They are Diane Berry Kitchens through and through as they respect the work we put in to bring them work and we respect the fact they bring it all to fruition, a great and, yes, old school philosophy.”