‘We are looking for a long-term relationship’

Danny Lay, Caple MD, at new Caple Studio in Leeds

Caple has just opened a new showroom in Leeds. Chris Frankland meets MD Danny Lay there to have a look round and find out more about the Caple brand and what it has to offer retailers

As I meet Caple MD Danny Lay at the new Caple Studio just a stone’s throw from Leeds station, it has been open just a month. The two-storey, 2,000sq ft showroom has kitchens on the upper level with a demonstration area, and appliances, sinks and taps on the ground floor.

Intended as a venue where its retailers can visit to see and get hands-on experience with Caple’s full range of products and benefit from product training sessions, it is also there as a resource for retailers who are encouraged to take their customers there to see its range of kitchens and appliances, sinks and taps under one roof.

The studios in Bristol and Leeds are owned and run by Caple and they do not sell to the public. But Caple has extended the concept of a solus Caple showroom with a series of Caple Studios run by independent retailers.

Lay tells me they have 10 retail customers being fitted out as Caple Studios. “These aren’t our studios, they aren’t franchises,” explains Lay, “they are independent kitchen retailers. But we offer them the whole package and support them in various ways with their displays and designs and delivery into their consumers’ homes, which takes a lot of that stress away from them. We feature them on our website and push their business. The first opened in 2021. We have six operating, we are fitting out two and we are in advanced talks with two others. The target is to add another five in 2023.”

Caple trades as Maurice Lay Distributors Ltd and was started in 1976. It was formed to distribute Zanussi appliances from Italy in the South-West, south Wales and from Hampshire down to the coast.

Lay recalls: “We grew rapidly. We acquired three other distribution companies – two in Bristol, one was a kitchen distributor and one was a bathroom distributor. We also acquired a company in Essex who were a kitchen, appliance and sinks and taps distributor. The company in Bristol was a kitchen furniture and sinks and taps distributor and that was the first time we got into that particular market. We grew a group of companies fairly rapidly and focused on the kitchen specialist, and we have remained focused on that area of the market ever since.”


In 1984, however, Zanussi was acquired by Electrolux, which did not use distributors and so, as Lay remembers, “we had to react pretty quickly as we lost a big chunk of our business”. And so, Caple evolved into a multi-brand distributor with depots all over the country.

“We distributed some well-known brands and we have always had a strong belief that we should have things in stock. If you don’t have it in stock, you can’t sell it.”

And so they got to a key turning point. “I sat down with Maurice, who started the company and is still our chairman,” recalls Lay, “and I said that in my opinion we should grow the sales force and focus on our Caple brand. We started selling Caple in the early Nineties. We created a brand that was competitive for the trade and we maintained a high-quality product.”

In time, the decision was taken to remove all other brands from the Maurice Lay portfolio and continue with Caple only.

The brand is still entirely owned by the original family and Lay says he has every intention of keeping it that way. He adds that “we are the only brand that sells kitchen furniture, appliances and sinks and taps under the same brand”.

Caple also prides itself on keeping plenty of stock and aims for 97% availability. The lead time for its kitchen furniture is typically three weeks. For in-frame kitchens there is a six-week lead time and most are one-off sizes.


For appliances and sinks and taps, these are shipped within 48 hours of an order.

“We will reserve that stock for retailers. They can tie stock down in my warehouse, and it won’t affect their credit limit until I deliver the product. That has been very important over the past two or three years as our customers’ cash flow hasn’t been negatively affected by having to tie stock down for a long period of time.”

Caple’s kitchens are made in the UK and its appliances are sourced from Europe and the Far East. But as Lay points out: “We manufacture and produce to a standard and it’s our standard. Anything we sell has to be of the highest standard.”

Yet Caple has always believed in offering affordable quality. “Just because we have a lot of features, it doesn’t mean they’re not affordable. I have never wanted to sell the cheapest products on the market. There’s no point. We are firmly in the mid-market and in some cases we are above that, but the features you get with our products tend to be greater than you’d get for a similarly-priced product.”

Caple currently supplies to around 2,000 retailers, including electrical retailers. But what of online sales?

“We work with a small handful of medium-sized internet dealers. They work closely with us as we want the product to be represented properly and they need to be trained on the product. You have to be able to sell the features. But we don’t offer it to the online nationals.

“We want our bricks-and-mortar retailers to make the best possible margins and by protecting the product online, they are able to make more money out of selling Caple. And the more products people display, the better terms they will achieve. We have not lost control of our brand.”

As we reported in our supply chain update in the November issue, Caple succeeded in maintaining good levels of supply during the pandemic, so much so that Lay says he has noticed an increase in appliance sales since the pandemic and its effect on the supply chain. He said that turnover had increased by 50% since 2019.

Lay says Caple succeeded in maintaining its deliveries to retailers by not cancelling any factory orders going into lockdown, allowing it to build up stock levels. It also doubled its warehousing capacity and sourced chips made near its factories rather than going to the typical countries where chips are made.

Caple clams to be a major supplier of wine coolers in the UK. Lay elaborates: “I think we created a market for affordable built-under wine cabinets. A lot of people start with our wine cabinets and then move on to the other products in the Caple range.”

On sinks and taps, Lay adds: “We are a significant supplier to the trade on sinks and taps. We tend to innovate and we were one of the first suppliers of PVD sinks and taps in the UK.”

So, what is Caple looking for in, and offering its, kitchen studios? “We are looking for a long-term relationship,” Lay says, “so that they learn to trust you over a long period of time.”

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