Retailers: dare to be different
Jim Geddes, MD of award-winning kitchen retailer JS Geddes in Kilmarnock, looks ahead to 2023 with optimism and draws on his 38-year career in the industry to highlight the routes to success for retailers
We’re nearing the end of the most difficult period certainly in my working life. Having spent 38 years running a kitchen business, I thought I’d seen it all, as I’m sure many of you had too.
Some of our tried and tested methods of selling kitchens and running a kitchen retail business, may be changing. So how do we look to the future?
Working from home… shorter working hours… zoom meetings between staff, clients and suppliers. These are just some of the key changes we’ve had to adapt to as kitchen retailers over the past three years. But will this be the norm moving forward?
All of our businesses are different. The above changes have become a God send for some but a disaster for others. Certainly, in our business yes, we do now do shorter hours. And yes, we have also taken to hosting zoom meetings with clients and suppliers when required, but working from home – that’s a step we haven’t taken. It’s hard enough sorting out rotas to ensure that the showroom is covered without having to do it with fewer people, especially since we operate an ‘open door policy’ during normal hours. But our showroom is our biggest sales tool. Most retailers have stunning showrooms – so we have to keep promoting it. We also need to continue promoting and demonstrating to clients how and what makes us different from the competition.
Appointments for showroom tours is certainly a change from the past and our team love it when appointments are pre-arranged but we won’t turn away a ‘walk in’. Some of our best clients have bounded through the door without any previous contact, spending serious money on a new kitchen.
Another change, or should that be challenge, is that we’re now being told that some appliance brands may go direct to the consumer and the big internet players will provide a supply-and-fit option. We, the independents can beat that. Our people know far more about the product and can sell the huge benefits of buying from us rather than going direct. Yes, we may be slightly more expensive on the product, but add on our service to the client, the complete installation and free appliance training and it’s an easy shout where to buy. I honestly can’t remember the last time we sold a kitchen without appliances. We don’t sell a part of a kitchen. We sell the whole kitchen.
So, we are competing against internet retailers and brands. We have worktop companies offering our customers a template-and-fit service. Sink brands going direct. These are all dangers to bricks-and-mortar showrooms, but I am still confident that consumers want the whole package put together, managed efficiently and with quality sourced products. I firmly believe the independent kitchen specialist business will continue to flourish. Yes, we will have challenges, be it rising costs or even lack of materials, and technology will continue to astound us at the rate it’s going, but we will adapt and embrace the changes to business. The opportunities to sell kitchens will still be there, but we will all have to fight that little bit harder for the business and exhaust every lead going.
There will be casualties in many industries caused by external sources, but I also believe that strong companies will continue to flourish.
We will all have to strive to go that little bit further for a client even to the point that we are happy to collect a client from their home, take them to the studio and return them back home – if it leads to a sale then no problem. We will do whatever is required.
Going that bit further is where we can create our own opportunities for success. We have to grab the chance of a sale and work it.
There will be major challenges in the next 12 months with our showrooms costing us more to run, thanks to rising energy costs among others. But a bit of showroom management will ease that burden. Opportunities are still there. Clients still want a new kitchen and by doing some positive marketing we have to ensure that the client puts our showroom at the very top of their visiting list.
Be different. Do what you competitors can’t. Give a service that will exceed everything else. We have the opportunity to ‘be all we can be’ and be the best.
But 2023… yes kitchens will still be sold. Projects will still be installed. Designs will still be created. And the companies that dare to be different will be the ones selling kitchens.
Furthermore, I believe that 2023 will be the year that we all care for our environment just that little bit more. We have a lot to learn on this matter, not only from a climate change perspective, but for the future prosperity of our business.