Retailers share secrets of success at MHK AGM

A panel discussion at this year’s UK AGM of buying group MHK saw retailers discuss their ‘secrets of success in kitchen retailing’.

Retailer panel at the MHK UK AGM.

The panel was hosted by magazine editor and KBB journalist, Lindsay Blair, as part of the AGM’s programme of events.

On the panel was Memuna Ismail (senior designer/kitchen showroom manager at Blackburn Tile Centre), Shanti Panchani (founder and design director at The Kitchen Consultancy), Torben Schmid (director of Torben Schmid Kitchens), and Paul Wheeler (partner at Kitchen Lifestyles).

The panel was asked how they manage to get customers to reveal their budget. “Getting a budget out of a customer is like getting blood out of a stone,” said Panchani from The Kitchen Consultancy. “The problem is customers all have one, but they just don’t want to share it because they believe that we’re going to use up all of their £30,000 budget if they say £30,000 – but I’m not.

“I’m forward and I say if you can’t give me a budget, I can’t work with you. I say we have to justify the process of spending £30,000 with us because we’re going to provide a better product, better service, and better follow up.”

It can be helpful if a retail business offers all levels of the market, as Ismail from Blackburn Tile Centre said: “If a customer says they don’t have a budget, I will explain that we have kitchens that start at £25,000 to £30,000, a middle market of £50,000 to £70,000, or high end £100,000 or more. So, I ask which one should I spec the products on? This brings them back down to earth and we can start to talk about budget.”

Wheeler spoke of how he manages customer budget expectations. He said: “I never ask about the budget directly. I’ve found that people walking into our showroom already know the cost of things. I explain that furniture is 35%-40% of the overall value of the kitchen. So, if you want to spend £15,000 on your kitchen products then you need to expect the total cost of your kitchen is going to be from £25,000 to £40,000.”

The panel was also asked if they would reduce their margin in order to land a sale – and the answers were unanimously “no.” Schmid from Torben Schmid Kitchens said: “We’re a small company selling maybe 30 or 40 kitchens a year. It’s just a nonstarter for me and generally when a customer is with you for that length of time where you get to a price, many don’t ask for a better price at the end.

“You’ve got a good steer by that point and if they are wanting to pay less at that stage then we have the confidence to say no.”

MHK’s AGM was attended by retail and supplier members and was held at The Belfry Hotel and Resort in Sutton Coldfield on July 8, 2024.

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