The Kitchen and Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) used this year’s kbb Birmingham to showcase only its second alliance with a British kitchen brand – Alku.
The KBBG, which is part of German buying group Der Kreis, has been traditionally strong in German kitchen brands and Alku, from Getley, now allows it to offer the traditional in-frame complete kitchen to its members.
Alku had several displays on the stand it shared with the KBBG at the show.
Commenting on the move, KBBG managing director Bill Miller, said: “We launched Der Kreis in the UK, coming from a German heritage and we had a long-standing relationship with a lot of German brands. So the early portfolio was very much weighted towards German kitchens. Then we added JJO and it was always my desire and wish to expand the UK kitchen side. We made contact with a number of UK brands but, to be honest, many of them seem to struggle with the buying group concept.”
Miller added: “Getley were hungry for more business and we were hungry for a quality British manufacturer with the traditional in-frame look, which Getley have worked really hard on. And what is more interesting is that Getley want to promote a German ethos – how they are doing their deliveries and their order confirmations, is very Germanic, which to a lot of our retailers are used to working that way. That fits perfectly.”
Miller feels that the partnership between Alku and the KBBG is a perfect fit. He told kbbreview: “The marriage with ourselves is a perfect one as Getley are quite happy to sit alongside the German brands, which is where they want to be. I spoke to one of our members this morning and he sells 100% German brands and he is looking to add in a UK kitchen range but has been put off because when he looks at a lot of the other UK brands, they are not very ‘German’ in how they work and he saw Alku as the perfect brand for him.”
Alku marketing director Dan Hughes was also on the stand and he said of the development: “Bill Miller has seen that there is a gap there for a traditional manufacturer, of which there are lots, and so for us to be chosen legitimises where we believe we are in the market. Bill is also impressed with where we are going and the fact that we can sit behind all these other German companies, without taking away from them and strengthening his brand at the same time, but also having the mind-set – where we want to take Alku is the same place that the Germans are. Easy to design, easy to quote, simple ordering, nice structured catalogues. We take the problems out of designing a traditional British kitchen and make it more Germanic in how it is structured.”
Hughes explained that sometimes retailers used to the German kitchen model don’t always appreciate the in-frame proposition. He told kbbreview: “It is out of their comfort zone. If you make a mistake with an in-frame, it can cost thousands to put right. So we are trying to make that process far more comfortable for them. We will adapt to fit their methodology of designing and help them capture sales that they would normally lose for those who do not want a modern style of kitchen.”
He concluded: “It is a perfect fit for us. We have said before that we don’t want to replace or compete with the Germans, they are far too good at what they do and always will be. We can fill in the gaps in the market that if you are a solus German studio you are going to lose.”
On the joint KBBG/Alku stand, Alku was showing its new home-office furniture range, which uses a modular system that can be adapted for kitchens and bedrooms. It was also showing its first freestanding bathroom furniture. Also on show was a Mondrian-inspired media unit, which Hughes admitted was a bit “marmite” which some visitors loving it and others not.
While on the stand, kbbreview asked Miller for an update on KBBG membership. He said: “Since the last kbb show in 2020, we have taken on 40% more members. The acceptance of working within a collegiate group of like-minded retailers has grown during Covid, with people feeling more alone and isolated, and this idea of working within a group suddenly looks more attractive and you can see the benefits.
“One of the most heartening things for me is that within the group there have been sub-groups set up by the members themselves. They have their own What’sApp groups and it helps me greatly in getting information out to the membership.”
The KBBG, recognising the challenges the industry has faced in terms of finding designers and installers, has also recently set up a network of independent designers called CAD Illustrated.
Miller said: “We launched it to the members and said they could subscribe to it and use their design facilities. It is something we have brought to market to serve the needs and challenges of now.”