Manufacturers in upbeat mood

Leading KBB suppliers have reported good levels of market growth and painted an optimistic outlook for retailers.

Speaking in a panel discussion at kbbreview’s Retail and Design Conference at kbb Birmingham, Franke UK MD Neil Clarke said the company was “seeing growth at all levels with all three brands”.

“It’s a positive picture for the independents but construction is slowing down slightly,” he continued. “Government spending has slowed, affecting commercial projects, but we think this will only be temporary.”

Clarke said big developers were expecting growth and that now was the time for smaller building firms to re-enter the market. “The contract market is presenting big opportunities for retailers,” he confirmed.

Clarke also hailed the success of its selective distribution strategy to tackle “market free riders” which had been damaging the brand. “The online side is certainly getting better for us,” he said. “There were too many web dealers who were in it to make a fast buck. Online is going to grow but it can’t be allowed to damage our investment in showroom retailers. The situation isn’t perfect yet, but we’re on a journey.”

Chris Honer, MD of appliance brand Britannia, said its integration into GDHA had proved successful and was presenting retailers with “great opportunities across all price points in an improving market”.

However, he admitted the appliance market continued to experience “massive price deflation”, forcing companies to review their business models to cope with the challenge it presented.

“We deal with bona fide online traders, but it’s also about differentiating products so that it’s difficult for online retailers to compete,” he said. “Online is going to get massive,” he warned, “but we’ll make sure showroom retailers can close the deal.”

Honer also stressed the importance of “choosing wisely” with distribution and urged retailers to understand the part they play in the chain. “It’s all about trust and transparency,” he said. “If the retailer trusts you, they’ll buy from you.

“The consumer is changing too and we’re finding we have to sort out order problems much quicker. It’s about being faster and better.”

Craig Rothwell, MD of CAD specialist 20/20, said the company was seeing big numbers of new dealers entering the business, which was “a very good sign”.

He pointed to a surge in demand for “add-ons” to CAD software, which are now in huge demand from retailers and developers. “Our retailers are more solid and have had proper training,” he said. “The number of really good dealers is growing but you’ve got to get the relationship right first time.”


Image top: left to right – Neil Clarke, Franke MD; Raffaela de Vittorio, Geberit & Twyford MD; Chris Honer, Britannia MD; Craig Rothwell, 2020 MD

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