Bill Miller, managing director of KBBG, one of the largest kitchen and bathroom buying groups in Europe, believes the number of retail vacancies will have an impact on opportunities to expand businesses
Q: What are the main challenges facing your sector and how is the KBBG tackling them?
A: The consumer trend is still to renovate, rather than relocate, and I believe this will continue. However, many of my conversations with independent kitchen specialists reveal that sales are being tied into building projects, leading to longer lead times. It will be important to adjust sales and marketing strategies in the future to address this increasing challenge.
The other worrying factor, and one likely to become more serious, is the availability of experienced staff. There are too many unfilled kitchen retail vacancies, which will only exacerbate the opportunity to expand the business to satisfy consumer demand.
However, retailers that offer their customers an exceptional retail experience and customer service, coupled with a showroom that displays beautiful, lifestyle-oriented kitchens with innovative and exciting products, can look forward to a profitable year ahead.
Q: If you were opening a retail showroom in this market what would be your strategy?
A: Often we think that a kitchen showroom should have as many displays as possible in an effort to maximise consumer choice. However, this approach is changing to one of ‘less is definitely more’. I would certainly advise fewer displays, incorporating a lifestyle approach.
It is essential to constantly promote the many advantages of the independent kitchen specialist over their multiple competitors. The independent kitchen retailers are the true specialists of our industry, offering a wealth of knowledge and expertise, as well as a distinctive atmosphere of warmth and intimacy that is so often lacking in multiple outlets.
This trend offers some real opportunities for enterprising independents who seek to be different and imaginative in their product offering. There is no better time to advertise and promote in the many media available. Don’t be afraid to embrace existing and emerging technologies, because they can open new and very profitable gateways.
Engage with your customers and local community on social media and interact regularly. Invite local community groups to hold one of their meetings in your showroom. Encourage them to ‘like’ your website and to spread the word about your business. It is a fantastic way to build your brand loyalty.
Q: How do you think the relationship between retailers and suppliers is changing?
A: The UK kitchen and bathroom market is growing ever more complex and challenging, so a strong and healthy business relationship with suppliers has never been more vital for retailers. But whom can you trust? A recent worrying trend is for certain suppliers to sell directly to the end user, usually as an online retailer, effectively by-passing the retailer network. This, in effect, creates a competitor against which their existing customers cannot compete. As a result, business boundaries have become blurred – who are the suppliers and who are the retailers?
The competition grows ever stronger, with the internet and national retail chains threatening to dominate and ultimately control the future, which makes retailing increasingly demanding and challenging for the independent kitchen specialist.