Franke gets house in order ahead of Brexit

Swiss sinks-and-taps firm Franke has revealed that it is in the middle of applying for Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status to minimise supply chain disruption in the event of a worst-case Brexit.

AEO accreditation, awarded by the HMRC in the UK, is not mandatory, but it certifies that a business has met certain standards in relation to safety and security, compliance with customs rules, standards of competence and others.

Essentially, it’s a trade facilitation measure that recognises reliable operators and encourages best practice in the international supply chain.

AEO-accredited exporters get priority treatment in the case of physical controls.

Franke UK managing director Neil Clark said the “important process” involves an HMRC audit of the past three years of import/export activity and said the firm is working to make sure that all processes are compliant.

But he admitted that “the consequences of a no-deal didn’t bear thinking about”.

“The Government can’t allow the country to seize up. There would be civil disorder. Something needs to happen,” Clark opened up to kbbreview at the UK launch of Franke’s high-end stainless steel worktop range, which includes a solid steel anti-fingerprint, heat-resistant product available in 4mm, 6mm and 8mm.

Clark, who has worked for Franke for 14 years, predicted that there would be more clarity by October/November on the terms of the UK-EU relationship post-Brexit, but acknowledged there was an element of “finger-crossing”.

Clark also said that the uncertainty made it difficult to work out its currency hedging strategy for the next 12 months.

Yet, despite the challenges presented by the vast economic and business uncertainties presented by Brexit, Franke said it was a good time to bring its high-grade, made-to-order stainless steel worktop surfaces to the UK market, with high demand for worksurface innovation, a “desire for creative and customised design” at the top end of the market and a trend for “mix-and-match” materials and textures in the kitchen.


Charlie Luxton at Franke launch

Worktops launch

The launch event was held at TV architect Charlie Luxton’s new-build in the Cotswolds, where the first Franke stainless steel worktop – a 4,500mm by 650mm by 40mm custom-made FineSteel – was installed over the summer. It is integrated with two KWC Zoe sinks and an Era tap.

Speaking at the event, Luxton said that he liked “natural materials” and “lumps of stuff”, like stone, steel and concrete and a singular, stainless steel surface supported the “simple expression” he was aiming to achieve in his kitchen.

Clark said: “Stainless steel is in Franke’s DNA and the worksurfaces complement very well our core products of sinks and taps. They are a natural design link allowing us to offer a completely bespoke solution, with superior aesthetic and design value to retailers working on high-calibre projects.”

In addition, Clark said the range would offer a point of differentiation for Franke in an increasingly crowded and commoditised sinks-and-taps market and “reaffirms the relevance of the Franke brand with our core studio customers”.

The firm has partnered with worktop installation expert F Jones of Cleveland to install the bespoke worktops, which are already taking off.

A month after launch, north London showroom Openplan Design has put one on display, while Holme Design in Yorkshire, Haus of Design in Stockton-on-Tees and ULMO in Poulton, Lancashire have expressed interest.

The range is available in 1.2mm FineSteel in two finishes, fabricated with a substrate and PureSteel, in thicknesses of 4mm, 6mm and 8mm with a choice of six finishes, including its exclusive Pearlfinish, a glass ceramic coating that repels water and doesn’t scratch.


‘I’m very excited about it…’

Rufus Wainwright, showroom manager and design director, ULMO on Franke’s stainless steel work surfaces

“I am working with a customer on a kitchen and originally she wanted stainless steel work surfaces, but I didn’t feel comfortable with recommending anything that was on the market. Stainless steel can be problematic. It scratches. It’s different in a commercial setting. You’re not going to be scrubbing your kitchen every night with a wire brush.

“But then I went to a Franke UK launch event in Switzerland at the beginning of the year and I was very impressed with their non-scratch PureSteel product. It seems like a game-changer. Initially, I was suggesting to my customer that she have a look at Corian, but now I will be recommending Franke’s PureSteel in the Diamond or Pearl finish, which are virtually stain-resistant.

“This is very different to anything that’s available in the market right now and I’m very excited about it. We don’t usually have any sales material on our work surfaces in our showroom, but we have a block with the samples and Franke POS material on display and it’s getting very positive feedback.

“It’s not for everyone – certainly not anyone who is spending less than £50,000 on a kitchen because of the price point – but we sell Gaggenhau and Sub-Zero Wolf, so for some of our customers who like that industrial look it ticks a lot of boxes.”

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