Are we opening? Yes.

As Benjamin Franklin said – “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. We are opening our showroom as I believe it keeps us a step ahead of our competitors, says Trevor Scott from RFK

‘Always, always have a plan’ has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t matter if you change or even abandon that plan as long as you had a plan to begin with.

Ultimately, it’s about being flexible and as an independent KBB retailer our flexibility and willingness to make changes to how we operate quickly is one of the key advantages we have over the leviathans of the industry.

With that ringing in my ears as Boris announced the lockdown on March 23, my second thought after worrying for the health and wellbeing of our nearest and dearest and the nation as a whole was simply this – what can RFK do to mitigate the inevitable economic disaster this lockdown is about to cause?

Projects we were halfway through had to be halted and the pipeline of orders postponed indefinitely.

We immediately closed the showrooms and put most of the staff on furlough, we paid our suppliers as much as possible and applied for all the grants, loans and payment holidays we could.

We battened down the fiscal hatches and prepared to weather the storm.

But we then formed an RFK WhatsApp marketing group between myself, my MD, Tom and Ben from our advertising agency Cumbria Creative.

We did a SWOT analysis and developed a social media strategy for keeping interest in RFK alive.

Initially we wanted it to be low key and to not overtly hustle for business, people understandably had more important things on their minds than the search for a new kitchen, so we started a daily recipe blog which is still running to this day.

It was all about engagement…

Fortuitously we had only launched our new website a couple of weeks before the lockdown and we have been able to make changes to its format almost daily, tweaking our message to suit the times.

We ‘virtually opened’, requesting consumers to send in their plans and to engage with us remotely via Zoom etc. We sold our first two lockdown kitchens a week later. Since then we have had a steady increase in projects to work on and subsequent orders in principle with holding deposits paid.

We began to see some light, albeit distantly, at the end of the tunnel.

Our developer clients began reopening sites and the supply chain slowly but surely began to gear up. Our warehouse reopened to receive and make deliveries as sites began to call in kitchens we had now received from the manufacturers.

But we also had consumers, both retail and clients of our developers, who needed to make their final choices before orders could be placed. As this is the last step on the journey to ordering a new kitchen and the one that simply can’t be done remotely our ability to kickstart the installation diary was severely hamstrung.

So when we heard that Wren had opened all its showrooms for by-appointment-only visits I immediately proposed we do the same.

This was, and still is, controversial and Tom was rightly reticent to jump too soon for fear of appearing mercenary and undoing all the good work we had done earlier in maintaining engagement. I argued back that we should lead and not follow, staying a step ahead of the curve and thus gain an advantage over our slower reacting competitors.

So we prepared all of our templates for the new advertising campaign we called “Exclusively for You”, offering private showroom appointments limited to just one same household group at a time, on both the website and social media.

We prepared our method statements and risk assessments, ensured we had all the PPE and cleaning agents we would require, then sat on our hands until we heard what Boris had to say last Sunday.

I pushed the button that evening and we went live last Tuesday.

Initially we are only seeing existing clients who have already engaged with us and will only make appointments from June 1 for new enquiries, although we will continue to encourage them to work with us remotely as we see this as being a long term solution to limiting footfall to a manageable level.

Tom had his first client showroom appointment on Saturday for them to make final choices and sign on the dotted line.

The first of many to follow I’m sure.

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