Looeeze Grossman, founder and director of The Used Kitchen Company, on why operating with the kind of community spirit developed through the pandemic, could be more important than ever.
Let’s look back to March 2020, as we came together at the kbb show with little idea of the challenges of the months to follow.
Though we were fully aware of the reports of a deadly virus sweeping through China, at this point we were pretty much all carrying on as normal, totally unaware of how it would impact us directly – how wrong we were.
Now, almost two years later, our world and landscape has changed considerably, and I’d like to think in many ways for the better. During the biggest crisis the UK has faced since World War Two, almost overnight we went from being what had, sadly, become an ‘every business for themselves’ industry to one which actively sought to help each other.
We banded together to offer help and assistance. Industry experts offered their time and expertise to help guide and support independent retailers both financially and resourcefully. We encouraged those who weren’t digitally savvy to put processes in place and supported each other mentally, creating online forums and group chats to see who could help with what and how.
As the inevitable redundancies caused by the coronavirus downturn kicked in, kbbreview launched the Save Our Skills campaign to help keep decades of experience in the industry. We helped those that needed to work remotely stay in touch, we checked in and we backed each other up.
We even found ourselves with time. Time to re-evaluate our businesses and showrooms; to consider displays and ponder ‘is this right, for right now’? With the ever-changing landscape, multifunctional kitchens were in mass demand and retailers stepped up to help their clients get the space they needed for this new way
They say that when faced with adversity people come together, and that’s certainly true for our sector. Everyone did their bit, whether it was through emotional or financial support. Even many of those on furlough put their time to good use and became vaccinators, stewards and delivery drivers.
For us at TUKC, ‘stepping up’ and being part of the KBB community meant donating to the KBSA every time we sold a kitchen throughout the second lockdown. It meant sourcing and delivering kitchens to people who had been left without one as their builders had to down tools and installers couldn’t reach them. These changes helped create a community.
The important thing here is what will be remembered and carried forward. Certainly, one thing we’ve noticed is the improvements in customer service. During lockdown buyers seemed desperate to chat, often sharing far more than their kitchen spec with us and this resulted in creating strong relationships. Everyone seemed happy to go the extra mile and customers were grateful.
Now that restrictions have lifted and the ‘new normal’ is emerging, what I hope remains within our industry is that overwhelming feeling of camaraderie and the responsibility of forming partnerships, keeping in touch, and helping each other continues.
It’s great to see how many of us are now offering this digital aspect to our business. Whilst not everyone is happy to set foot in showrooms for initial research, even with restrictions lifted, and others are just too busy to visit, these new ways of remote working secure the future of independent retailers. Despite many homeowners doing all the background work from their home, ultimately consumers are still going to want to feel and touch the product before making a final decision.
This evolved way of working with our customers to offer multiple communication methods, I hope, will remain. When a client knows they can just pick up the phone, rather than filling in a form on the website and waiting to hear back, they feel special, they feel listened to and they feel connected.
The KBB sector has, for a long time, been one of the most innovative and exciting to work in. Now, it’s also one of the most supportive and collaborative environments for both the people working in it and those buying from us.
There is a future post Covid-19. It may not be quite the future we had planned but it’s there, it’s exciting and as we stand together as an industry it is looking very bright indeed.