Do supplier warranties end up costing retailers money?

If a tap is leaking, a basin is cracked or doors are scratched after a kitchen or bathroom has been installed, it can often be down to a faulty product. The manufacturer might send new ones to the customer under a warranty –  but is the original retailer obliged to go and fit it at their own cost? And, perhaps, also cover the cost of disposing of any damaged items?

Given that a retailer’s most valuable asset is their reputation, is it a small price to pay to keep customers happy? Or should manufacturers and suppliers cover all costs as a matter of course?

We asked some leading retailers what they think…

Matthew Nicholson, The KBB Centre
“This all boils down to the retailer’s reputation and how you sell the products. We are having a few issues with a good supplier of kitchens where the doors have delaminated and we are working together to best replace them. Ultimately we foot most of the cost to change the faulty doors so that we don’t tarnish our name. It’s an awkward situation…”

Graham Robinson, Halcyon Interiors
“Ultimately it’s about keeping the client happy, sometimes it costs to replace items that are often supplied without charge but price cannot be put on the goodwill that is created. A few years ago I helped a customer sort a plinth for a kitchen that was not even originally purchased from us and last year they returned and brought a whole new kitchen for another property.”

Elizabeth Pantling-Jones, Lima Kitchens
“The consumer experience is the main thing and the potential for recommendations and future purchases is great. However the lack of consistency across suppliers along with fitter availability can make it tricky and costly. For us it’s always been dependent on the company and our relationship. We would always endeavour to get the product and time replacing covered but not all companies are happy with this and we do indeed end up footing the bill. Disposal, our time assessing, organising, delivering etc is never covered. A value that is lost in so many parts of this industry.

“In other cases, it can be more complicated. What happens if it is furniture and since been discontinued? Many manufacturers would struggle to fulfill replacement of doors for example, despite the claim of warranties. Many do not hold material. Some have paid for the closest match, some wash their hands of it (which puts trust and belief in the company in question) and what then happens if you can’t source a suitable match? The onus stops at the retailer, either at their cost directly with replacements and/or reputation.

“There is also the knock-on effect to consider. A worktop could need plumbing, gas, electric, tiling and decorating. Having been in this situation, many of these costs then came down to us and our contractors, which seems unfair. Other areas such as appliances are more clean cut as they usually keep spare parts and have their own engineers. As always, it’s complicated…”

We have always picked up the bill for the delivery and re-installation of the faulty item. Is it fair? I would say not…

Shehryar Khan, Sheraton Interiors

Trevor Scott, RFK Contracts Ltd
“We always try to get some kind of compensation from manufacturers to cover our out-of-pocket expenses associated with replacing their faulty goods. Some do offer an amount but it’s never enough to truly reflect our costs. Many others offer nothing formally but a good ASM usually softens the blow with a ‘good customer relations’ extra discount off an order for ‘display’…”

Michael Lloyd, Wetrooms Online
“A large number of manufacturers operate an after sales service and have engineers on the road looking after their products and brand. Some, however, simply ship out a spare part and they believe that’s the end of their responsibility and it then falls to the retailer to pick up the pieces. Do we add margin to every item to cover the long term cost of sorting out these warranty issues ? Or do we simply suck up the costs ourselves? Do we terminate the agreement with the manufacturer and source a more responsible supplier who covers the costs of their own mistakes?

“My belief is this. If a product fails within warranty the manufacturer should stand by the supplier and support with replacement parts and contributions to install costs and waste removal. This is a big topic!”

Shehryar Khan, Sheraton Interiors
“Generally speaking, good suppliers do replace the faulty items free of charge, however we have always picked up the bill for the delivery and re-installation of the faulty item. Is it fair? I would say not. But I would agree that, the good will created goes a long way and more often that not results in recommendations. We tend to take the long term view and protect our reputation.”

Manish Hirani, Director at CAD Illustrators
“It’s a very debatable point but I think that retailers have to follow the same stance as the manufacturers –  protect the brand! The cost of such a remedial has to go against a marketing budget, as word and mouth referrals are the best source of marketing. It also depends on the situation and type of remedial of course.”

Roxanne Baker, Director, Olympus Bathrooms
“We invoice the manufacturer for our labour time and deduct it from the monthly statement. It has to fall to the manufacturer to cover labour cost with faulty parts within warranty. It isn’t the installers fault that said item has stopped working. We would also look at whether the manufacturer would continue to be our go-to supplier…”

What do you think? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected]. In particular we’d love to hear from suppliers and manufacturers so if you’d rather your comments were anonymous, just let us know.

The latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast is very relevant to this topic. It’s all about trying to in down exactly what a ‘partnership’ is between retailers and suppliers. Listen using the player below or on Apple PodcastsSpotify or YouTube.

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