Keep business healthy

Darren Taylor, MD of Searle & Taylor, explains why he wants a more unified industry and why working with other businesses on projects you might otherwise have sent clients elsewhere for can pay dividends all round.

Tony Robson of Day True recently came up with the interesting suggestion that our industry should consider renaming from its traditional KBB acronym to KBH – Kitchen Bathroom Home – something I really respect him for. I recently noted that Richard Hibbert, chairman of the KBSA, had also started referring to KBH independents in recent LinkedIn posts, so it has clearly resonated with him, as he, too, is a KBH retailer. 

Could this mean the future rebranding of everything to do with the entire sector? While it is potentially a major step change, it could be a very good idea indeed, as it could open the industry up to further opportunities. 

However, not every retailer in our industry is set up to be a KBH business. There are many small independent specialists that just sell kitchens and who partner with a particular furniture brand that only makes kitchens. Like me, they don’t directly sell bathrooms either, so their offer is somewhat limited. But does it have to be? As an industry, we all know suppliers that specialise in aspects of the home that we do not. 

My own business has diversified over the years, made easier by the fact that I have always offered bespoke kitchens alongside contemporary ones made by our Austrian furniture partners. Whereas I once only wanted to sell kitchens, I realised that I was totally missing a trick by turning down or recommending other companies to design bijou projects for the more compact rooms in the client’s home. Now, when new clients come to my showroom to discuss their kitchen project and ask, ‘can you recommend someone to design the shelves in my dining room or fitted bedroom furni-ture?’, my answer is always, ‘yes, I can do that for you’. Often, these projects are all about maximising space and isn’t that what we do when we design kitchens anyway?

I concluded that there was a huge opportunity to ‘sell up’ on the basis that if I can design a beautiful kitchen, I can design furniture for other, smaller rooms too. This has helped my margins and also made my business more competitive, because not every kitchen retailer offers this service. And that is the point – why don’t they?

I trained as a cabinetmaker, so I really enjoy designing bespoke home projects other than kitchens, however large or small, and while these are featured on my website, they are still not my stock-in-trade. Over the past few years, I have designed boot rooms, dressers and dining room furniture, bedrooms, children’s bedrooms, and walk-in wardrobes. Also, storage seating for breakfast rooms, pop-up TV units, tables, and coffee tables. These have all been additional sales to the kitchen that I was initially commissioned to produce. 

This is not really about changing my company name from Searle & Taylor Kitchens to Searle & Taylor Kitchens and Home, it is about developing the trust of our clients and then maintaining it. 

If they know you are doing a great job with their kitchen design, then why not proactively ask if they are refurbishing other areas of the home and then offer to undertake that part of the project as well?

Keep it in-house

My advice to any independent kitchen retailer is even if you can’t design or make it yourself, never hand over someone else’s business card for these extra, often quite lucrative jobs. Most of all, don’t lose that potential sale from your own business. 

Once the client is yours, don’t relinquish them to someone else, but use a trusted supplier (there are many in the KBH industry) that you know will work to the same quality that you would expect from your own business, then send the quote to the client using your letterhead. You can then manage the project with the same expectations you would have with any other while ensuring it is a seamless experience for your client. 

I mentioned that I don’t design bath-rooms and that is true. But I know someone that does. 

And if this industry is going to continue to thrive following this pandemic, then we all need to work together to help Keep Business Healthy. 

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