‘Communication, honesty, and agility key to strong retailer relationships’ says CDA MD

Dominic Worsley, managing director, CDA

Any business involved in the supply of appliances has had a tricky time of late but, as CDA managing director Dominic Worsley explains, there are three reasons why the MDA manufacturer has been able to maintain strong relationships with its retail channels. Matt Baker finds out more…

Barring a period at The Walt Disney Company, Dominic Worsley has worked in the domestic appliances sector since 1999. Now managing director of Nottingham-based appliance manufacturer CDA, he is using his vast experience by leveraging the unique characteristics of CDA, in a bid to catapult the company’s growth among independent retailers.

First though, as Worsley explains, the company needs to consolidate its position after an unpredictable couple of years.

Q: So, how’s business at CDA?

A: What a time to ask that question! Like many companies, CDA has had a challenging couple of years. Just before Covid we introduced new internal systems, which presented its own challenges trying to get that up and running. We then went into Covid and hit all the same supply chain issues everyone else experienced. Everything changes so fast and if you’d asked me this in March, I would have said we’re shaping up for a really good year. But the immediate turmoil of Putin invading Ukraine is going to affect all of us both personally and in business. There’s the scarcity and price increases of raw materials, and the effect of increased energy prices too, that could make for another demanding year.

All things considered, however, I think we’re doing very well. We’re a good, well-known trade brand. Designers recommend us as reliable, so I think we’ve got a strong foundation. CDA is benefiting from the fact people are still buying kitchens and this is reflected in our strong order books in kitchen-specific channels.

I feel genuinely privileged
to be at CDA because it’s a cracking brand, and I think that’s down to its people

Q: You became managing director in December 2021, how have you found the first six months?

A: CDA is a great family brand that looks after the people it employs. At first, I spent a lot of time getting to know people and walking round the business just to understand it. I feel genuinely privileged to be here because it’s a cracking brand, and I think that’s down to its people — they are incredibly passionate about CDA. Not only has everyone who works here had two or three years of turmoil, but also CDA being bought out by the Polish group Amica [in 2015], and they’ve had to come to terms with the whole subsidiary/owner dynamic. Our people are resilient and incredibly passionate with a lot of optimism about the future. That’s half my job done for me! I just need to harness that passion and turn it into something meaningful in the independent kitchen channel.

One of the things I’m enjoying about CDA is our autonomy. Yes, Amica bought the company, but chairman Jacek Rutkowski is passionate about CDA being successful as a brand. So, we have all the support we need. There are very few jobs in the MDA market where you have the backing of a big company, but the freedom to do what is right for your market.

Q: Do you have a specific management style?

A: Yes, I’m very open and collaborative. I want to know what people think and how we can also support them.

Q: What are your thoughts on manufacturers selling direct to consumers?

A: It’s about putting a value on the product and understanding where your priorities lie. Look at sports brand Nike. They know they need retail partners to introduce people to the brand. It’s the same for us. By all means, sell direct, but don’t forget that you’re relying on independents to make that introduction. In the UK, independents are the second biggest channel for kitchens after Howdens. But it’s also the channel that’s going to add value, that will talk about your innovations better than anyone else and support you as a brand.

By all means, sell direct but don’t forget that you’re relying on independents to introduce people to the brand

For CDA, that is our priority. You’ve got to get it right there first before making any decision about selling online. You can’t undermine that relationship with independents. Whether it’s using that channel to launch new products, you need to manage those channels well and understand why your consumers are in those channels. Yes, you can sell direct and it’s easier for that consumer to buy a replacement product from you, but what are you taking away from somewhere else and what is the long-term effect of that?

I want to grow CDA through independents because that’s where we grew originally, and I’m convinced it’s where our strongest growth will happen again.

Q: It’s one thing to have innovative products, but that means very little to retailers if there is no stock. What strategy has CDA implemented to deal with any supply issues and maintain service levels?

A: Our levels have been good — partly because we had delayed orders that happened to arrive and partly because of brilliant forecasting. We hold great stocks, but we really have spent a lot of time enhancing our forecasting process. If that’s not accurate, you’re never going to be on top of demand. We’re looking good stock-wise, so if anyone needs an oven, give us a call.

Q: Why do you think communication around supply is so hard to get right?

A: When you have lots of product coming from different places around the world, you don’t have systems that are talking to each other well.

I think it all comes down to understanding the UK market and how it’s unique. Compare it to Germany, where it’s a big replacement market. When you rent a flat there, you sort the kitchen out yourself, so everything is replacement. But here we have all these individual kitchen showrooms that need product at the time of asking to fit the product on the right day.

CDA headquarters in Langar, Nottinghamshire

It’s making sure you have that understanding so you can communicate with customers honestly and as early as possible. You can’t tell a customer that the delivery due next week is coming in six weeks instead. Of course, some things are totally out of your control, but you have to be honest about it. People are more understanding about supply, so whether you adjust your forecast to reflect the risk or lengthen lead times to secure the stock, there’s things you can do.

If you have those three things – communication, honesty, and agility – you can offset the worst effects of supply issues.

Q: What next for CDA? What’s exciting you about the next 12 months?

A: We’ll be consolidating some of the changes we’ve made, both internally and externally. We want to build the brand by making a virtue of the fact that we are agile, that we are British design for the UK market, and really building that relationship with the kitchen retail channel. 

We have growth plans for that channel built on having a direct service team and aftercare sales. We’re even offering same-day service, so it’s a fantastic foundation for us to build our kitchen retail channel.

Read more about how CDA is benefiting from Worsley’s experience as Miele’s global marketing director, and what new CDA product is being released in the June issue of kbbreview or subscribe now.

Home > Indepth > ‘Communication, honesty, and agility key to strong retailer relationships’ says CDA MD