Häfele UK: Listen then react

Listening is always high on the agenda at Häfele. Whether that’s talking to its retailers or taking the time to survey 2,000 homeowners to understand how customers use their homes. Vicki Evans talks to Natalie Davenport, head of marketing at Häfele UK, to find out more

Natalie Davenport, head of marketing at Häfele UK

The stock catalogue at Häfele is all-encompassing. The company manufac-tures or distributes over 25,000 products. It is a global company that will be 100 years old next year and has a massive presence in the UK with an extensive network of retailers and studio partners.

However, despite its size, there is a real sense of family within this global company. Like every other business around the world, the past few years have been tough, and it has caused a lot of companies to make some decisions. However, with Häfele, its customers are always at the forefront of those decisions.

Natalie Davenport (pictured), head of marketing at Häfele UK, explains the past few years from her perspective: “It has been a rough, tough few years  but we have focused on maximising our stock levels to service customers. So, even though the inflationary cost has gone up, we have chosen to support our customers as best
we can.

“We have 25,000-plus products from stock, and because we manufacture and distribute, we can control the supply to better serve our customers. In addition, we are a global business, which will be 100 years old next year, so we have a massive history with our global supply chain, and we can call on that relationship, which some other companies may not be able to do.

“It has been a few years of tough decisions, but there has been a huge push by Häfele to help our customers where we can. We have even had times when we have made decisions that have impacted Häfele in the short term, but have helped our customers maintain their businesses.”

Kitchens for Living

Despite the past few years being challenging for Häfele and its retailers, it still made time to take stock and look at things from a more academic angle and as a growth opportunity. As a result, the Functional Spaces: Kitchens for Living White Paper was revealed in March  2022 to see how customers are now using their kitchens. 

The Häfele team had a fairly good idea what would come out of the survey – as they already had some data and information from sales figures and direct contact from retailers,  but they wanted to understand consumer demands more deeply.

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Davenport explains the idea behind the survey: “We knew that Covid had affected the marketplace, and there had been a shift. We knew that studios did not have the facilities to go out to the market to understand what had changed to find out its impact on their business. We wanted to know how we could work together using these changes to build new opportunities with our retailers.”

The research confirmed much of what Davenport and her team already thought and has been well reported over the past few years, like people using their homes differently. She says: “My gut was telling me that people were stuck indoors, they were using their homes differently, therefore wanting to want to update so they could use the space more intelligently.”

The role of the kitchen has been transformed over the past few years, with people changing their spaces and using them differently. Kitchens are no longer just a place for meal preparation but for socialising, entertaining and for the kids doing their homework – in fact, all aspects of family life and the space now needs to reflect that change in usage.

Another finding that, while not new, puts real meat on the bones was the data on the level of demand there is in the UK. The results found that one-in-five people didn’t like their kitchens. Davenport sees this as great news for retailers as that is a lot of demand they can take advantage of.

Those were things they saw coming, but what surprised the Häfele team?

Kitchens for Living 

Häfele surveyed 2,000 consumers about how they use their homes. Here are a few things that retailers should know:

86% said that their environment impacts their emotional and mental well-being

65% of people said that a well-designed space would improve their quality of life

20% said they don’t like their current kitchen

31%  of homeowners said they need to upgrade their kitchen but are worried about getting the design wrong

52% would like lighting built into their kitchen cabinets

60% said functionality was their number one priority

25% would like wi-fi-enabled appliances in their kitchens

Davenport was surprised to find that 86% said that their environment impacts their emotional and mental well-being, with 65% of people saying that a well-designed space would improve their quality of life. With that information, she now sees the opportunity for retailers to better match the design of a space to its uses and in turn, improve how consumers feel about their environment. 

“Now we realise people’s emotional connection with space, we can work better with our partners to help grow both our businesses. Combining the design with the right products, starting with asking good questions, all up results in proper functionality from that space, which in turn gives the client that sense of

Functionality is Häfele’s forte,and getting that right is one way to improve the overall space. Davenport knows that a kitchen shouldn’t just be about aesthetics. 

She explains: “This survey highlighted that  functionality was the number one priority to 60% of homeowners. We have a network of customers with exceptional spatial designers but we don’t expect them to know about every single product we offer across the globe that helps to maximise functionality. That’s where we come in. Our sales, product and technical teams are on hand to work seamlessly with retailers’ designers to deliver fully functional spaces not just cabinets. And the statistics also show us that consumers who don’t get this from their design will now walk.”

Davenport says that Häfele was one of the first brands to see the potential opportunities for home offices at the start of the pandemic. They went all-in on this trend and it has paid off, because they were able to listen to feedback and then react.

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Davenport shares two questions Häfele always looks to get answered: “How can we work together to maximise opportunities for our retailers,  like the rise in home offices? And  how can we [retailers and Häfele] get ahead of the curve and maximise sales for our studio partners?”

Communication is not just about getting direct information from the end-user, it is also about speaking with the retailer. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is not just a cliché but a mind-set. 

Häfele wants its retailers to tell them about problems or opportunities in their business to see if they can help.

Häfele encourages them to reach out with any issue they face, as there might be a way to help them. 

Davenport says: “We can do anything you want. Just talk to us and let us know what you need, and we will see what we can do.”

Communication is a vital aspect of the company, as Häfele acknowledges that this is the only way they can know what is happening in their customers’ worlds. With that information, Häfele can grow for the benefit of the company, their important retail network and finally, right down to the
end consumer. 

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