What can the international kitchen brands offer UK retailers?
International kitchens continue to sell well in the UK. What do continental brands have to offer and what does this mean for kitchen retailers? Is it time to expand your global reach? Lara Sargent investigates
The UK kitchen specialist market is looking healthy. According to researcher JKMR, sales through kitchen studios were valued at £1.9 billion last year – which is a significant 36% share of the almost £5bn new kitchen spend.
So it’s no surprise that international kitchen brands are eager to work with UK kitchen studios – and have been for many decades. “There will always be a market for in-frame kitchens and some of the excellent craftsmanship of a quality UK made kitchen,” says Tim Spann, UK national sales manager for Keller Kitchens, a Dutch brand that has been in the UK for 40 years. “But this market is broad in aspiration and desire – it’s what makes the UK market a cherished one for international manufacturers. It’s a disparate market that feeds on the innovation that international manufacturers
It’s fair to say that kitchen retailers have forged a long and successful relationship with manufacturers from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, to name but a few.
As Bill Miller, managing director of Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) says: “So many of the door finishes and fittings used in kitchen furniture originate from the international manufacturers. Germany introduced us all to the handleless kitchen, a style which has become standard across the industry.”
So what do international kitchens bring to today’s UK kitchen market and how can the retailer benefit from having an overseas brand in its portfolio? Interestingly, in 2022 JKMR calculated that almost 1.28 million new kitchens were installed into a UK family home – of which 10% included imported cabinetry, the majority of that being German brands. In terms of value, imports secured over 20% share of cabinetry value at end client buying price.
“The UK kitchen manufacturers still excel at traditional painted kitchen finishes,” adds Miller at KBBG. “Although some European brands have recently introduced more UK oriented Shaker styles, they are still some way behind the needs of the UK consumer. When a contemporary design is needed, then the choice is wider, with both UK and European suppliers offering a larger number of options. The experience of our members suggests that at the higher end of the price sector, international brands lead the way as consumers perceive that these offer the highest levels of quality and design.”
Collaborating with overseas partners will offer the UK customer – and the kitchen market as a whole – design diversity, innovative products and a beefed up retail landscape. “International kitchen brands can enrich the UK market with their cuttingedge designs, innovative technologies, sustainable solutions, and exposure to global culinary and lifestyle trends,” says Kerry Furber, managing director at Siematic UK. “This not only offers consumers a broader range of options but also encourages the local market to evolve and embrace new ideas.”
Enhanced brand reputation and a wider customer base are other key retailer benefits, says Furber: “A globally recognised brand instantly lends credibility to your business. It often attracts a diverse customer base too, including consumers who are already loyal to the brand and those seeking premium and reliable kitchen solutions. As a result, retailers can tap into new markets and demographics.”
Showcasing an international brand to customers will upgrade the UK retailer offer in so many ways say industry experts: skilled craftmanship, precision engineering, diverse design elements and, importantly, individuality.
As Bodie Kelay, managing director of Euromobel / Sachsenküchen, confirms: “UK retailers understand that as the ‘cost of living’ bites, it’s no longer just about offering a German kitchen brand to support new business, but focusing on the mid to upper market with a distinctive premium furniture solution. We thrive on individuality for the retailer and personalisation for its end customer.”
Customisable design options are key to tapping into the domestic style identity say the international brands. It allows kitchens to be tailored to UK tastes while embracing innovation and cutting-edge European style.
“International brands that target a UK customer base need to strike a balance between offering a sophisticated, global appeal and incorporating elements that resonate with local culture and design preferences,” adds Furber at Siematic.
So how do international brands help the UK retailer in terms of display, marketing and support?
“Our in-house corporate architecture team design the full studio concept and environment, not just the display, with consideration to the needs of the retailer and the local market,” explains Scott Rotchell, dealer manager at Poggenpohl UK.
“We run global and national brand campaigns targeted at driving potential clients to our website where they can find their closest studio. The enquiries are then sent to the retailer who each have their own ‘micro-site’ on our website. We have local marketing strategies per retailer and give them access to hundreds of brand images and videos for use on their websites and social media platforms.”
It’s a similar picture of retailer support from other leading international brands. “We believe in looking after every retailer in the Rotpunkt family and supporting each of them to develop their business through a combination of practical, professional and proactive product knowledge and trading,” states Matt Phillips, head of UK operations at Rotpunkt. “Our dealers are the face of our brand for UK homeowners and developers, which is why we tailor a comprehensive range of competitive sales packages, training product literature and POS merchandising.”
Scavolini also helps retailers make the most of their showroom displays: “We understand the importance of showcasing our furniture in the best possible light,” says Scavolini’s CEO Fabiana Scavolini. “To this end, we offer props and decorations to retailers to help our kitchens, bathrooms and living room furniture come to life.”
There are two major issues that will inevitably influence UK retailers looking to forge a relationship with an international kitchen brand: Brexit and carbon footprint.
For Poggenpohl, any Brexit disruption has been minimised by offering retailers a contract with Poggenpohl Group UK. “This means all purchasing is done via the UK business with less Brexit-related paperwork,” explains Rotchell.
Sustainability is the other keyconcern. International brands are keenly aware of the potential impact of longer transport journeys and this has led to them taking steps to minimise and reduce their carbon footprint.
Siematic uses eco-friendly materials and sustainable production methods for example and has long been completely independent of gas. “Instead, we use wood residues and product dust for heating in Siematic’s energy centre and electricity is green sourced. We source materials locally to reduce transportation-related emissions,” confirms Furber.
Rotpunkt, meanwhile, makes its kichens from Greenline BioBoard Gen2, a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional chipboard Keller is also embracing all aspects of sustainability and has been a carbon neutral manufacturer since 2017. The international kitchen market certainly has much to offer the UK retailer in terms of product innovation, retailer support and sustainability.
Miller at the KBBG says: “International kitchen suppliers see the UK as a target market. If they are already here, they want to grow bigger. If they’re not, they are interested in developing a customer base here. International kitchen brands will continue to expand here and keep UK brands on their toes.”