Exhibitors interview: Eamon Donnelly, chief executive, Uform
Q: How’s business compared with last year?
A: Business remains strong, however on a more challenging platform as consumer confidence has depleted. We’ve grown significantly in recent years and with upwards of £18 million of investments over the past two years across product, infrastructure and people, this is all paving the way for the next chapter.
Q: How do you view the health of the UK KBB market? In what ways could it improve and how can the industry improve it?
A: Overall the outlook for the KBB market appears challenging. We estimate that 82% of all kitchens within the independent retailer channel to market are replacement kitchens. Now that we have at long last reached a decision on Brexit, this should bring much needed stability and hopefully a healthier appetite for the purchase of kitchens.
Higher levels of new-builds in both the private and public sectors will also help to support the forecast growth. However, with the higher proportion of flats and smaller houses, this is likely to have an impact on the average value of kitchen furniture. This is something we as a business need to be mindful of from a product design perspective also.
In addition to this, while training does exist to a degree for kitchen designers through the main KBB software providers, it’s difficult to find someone with the right mix of technical skill and creative design flair.
There’s also a distinct lack of training opportunities in the area of sales. For this reason, we ourselves place a very strong focus on the art of selling through our own series of ‘Steps to Selling’ programmes for retailers. I think the importance of really understanding your customers and the market in which you operate cannot be underestimated, so this is something that the industry could look at improving.
Q: What are the main challenges you will face as a business this year and how will you overcome these?
A: It’s widely known that the KBB industry is a very overcrowded marketplace, but it’s an extremely rewarding one to be a part of. The pace of change is fierce. As in the fashion industry, trends change, colours change, and people’s lifestyles change. Technology in the home is becoming more prevalent and consumers in general are becoming much savvier and in tune with exactly that they want to achieve in the home, so while this all proves challenging, it also opens a huge area of opportunity.
Retailers are increasingly looking for a commercially viable product offering that is readily available, straightforward to sell and uncomplicated to install.