KBB manufacturers have planned for every Brexit scenario

In the past four years, KBB manufacturers have been diligently preparing for any Brexit outcome. Now we have left the EU, the general feeling is positive as they say they have prepped for anything that is thrown at them.

With the uncertainty of what Brexit will bring to the UK supply chain, the majority of manufacturers have been carefully preparing over the past four years. They have been busy building new warehouses to increase stock levels and communicating with customers since the nation voted to leave the EU.

All this preparation has led to a calm and measured response from KBB manu-facturers. Most suppliers kbbreview has spoken to don’t anticipate any significant issues or delays related to Brexit. There are currently delays due to Covid, but problems directly related to Brexit will be few – apart from more paperwork.

Another consensus between the suppliers we interviewed was that after everything retailers have been through in 2020, any Brexit-related issues will be far less of a challenge.

Richard Turner, Pronorm’s national sales manager for UK and Ireland, has encouraging words for retailers and says: “Given the past 12 months, I think that retailers have honed their skills to perfection now in coping with what is thrown at them! Keep a dialogue going, keep positive and be honest with managing a customer’s expectations.”

British kitchen manufacturer TKC agrees that retailers have learnt to be flexible over the past 12 months. Marketing manager Neil Taggart says: “Retailers showed their flexibility and adaptability throughout 2020 and in many cases flourished, so I can’t see Brexit phasing them. Giving as much notice as possible of future orders would help with demand forecasting and building in some safety time to projects would probably
be worthwhile.”

British manufacturers have been waving the ‘Buy British’ flag for many years, even before the Brexit vote, but consumers are changing the way they think about British-made products.

“The ‘Made in Britain’ message is a major benefit for retailers and distrib-utors,” says Iskender Diker, director of sales and marketing for Rangemaster. 

“Furthermore, by building strong relationships with reliable British suppliers, they can be assured of high-quality products without the added expense and carbon footprint created by shipping from overseas. As a British appliance and sink manufacturer, we have an advantage over others in the KBB industry that rely on the EU as part of their finished unit supply chain.”

But buying 100% British may not be that easy, as many products use components that are not made in the UK. 

Tim Spann, national sales manager for Keller Kitchens explains: “Don’t be fooled by the notion that there is any such thing as a 100% British kitchen; some part of every ‘British’ kitchen is sourced from the EU and beyond.”

Behind the scenes, suppliers have been working tirelessly to prepare for every outcome. A difficult task as the options were not just limited to deal or no deal. Getting everyone’s ducks in a row is expensive.

Appliance supplier Kitchen Ex has been diligently gathering infor-mation about the transition to make sure that their service remains consistent. Marketing manager Laura Gardiner says: “Most suppliers should be fairly well prepared by now. Retailers should try to order goods as early as possible in case of longer lead times, as well as set expectations to customers at the time of purchase.

“Like all suppliers of appliances from Europe, we have had to wrestle with changing compliance, labelling and transport rules, as well as fairly confusing changes in customs and VAT rules. Delays and supply chain disruption may be possible in the early months of 2021, while we all feel our way through the new processes.”

Samantha Lewis, UK country manager for bathroom brand Bette, says: “Bette has been working to ensure that everything is in place, and there should be no disruption to the supply of products from Germany. It is also helpful that, for many years, Bette has owned its delivery lorries and employed the drivers. This means that we are not reliant on hauliers and can ensure our weekly deliveries to the UK. To further safeguard supply, our partners have increased their stock levels in the UK, and there is good availability of our shower trays, baths and basins.”

Stock levels

Caesarstone has also done some careful planning over the past 24 months to prepare for potential issues. The surface manufacturer says that stock levels are strong and it is replenishing the warehouse regularly.

MD Amir Reske believes these are difficult times. However, transparency with cus–tomers is key. He says: “It is worth working with suppliers that can help navigate these tricky times and help them through Brexit, as well as Covid-19. We are trying to be as transparent and as flexible as possible with our accounts, so that projects can be planned and managed accordingly.

“It is important to deal with manufacturers that have regular and timely supply to the UK, and that always keep adequate stock. The global container shortage and port congestion have caused supply chain problems, and those that aren’t able to hold stock are now having problems.”

Simon Collyns, group marketing and retail sales director for Symphony, feels confident that they will not have any issues surrounding Brexit, as they have spent four years planning. He says: “Since the decision to leave the EU was taken in 2016, Symphony has continued to plan for all potential outcomes. In the long term, we don’t see any major issues for our business arising from Brexit.”

IDS’s MD John Bagshaw says he anticipates more paperwork but that the overall deal won’t have too much of an affect on the supply chain. He says: “The deal that has been done shouldn’t affect the supply of imported goods, but I think there is some catching up to prepare systems and administration to deal with the additional paperwork – but that will happen. We have a pathway agreed for trade between the EU and UK, although I have concerns about the lack of provision for services and the impact that will have further down the tracks.

“We hold very healthy stock levels across all of our product categories.”

One consistent piece of advice for retailers is to make sure they give themselves as much time as possible to get the required stock in. Short-term issues are inevitable as teething problems are resolved, but the industry has prepared for the worst case and so, hopefully, is ready for anything.

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