The owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, Trevor Scott, tells us how he does his best to avoid disasters in the run-up to Christmas
There is a date tattooed on the heart of every kitchen specialist. It’s the same date every year, but no matter how well we plan for each and every eventuality, Christmas Day still seems to be able to creep up on us all and give us a good ole bite on the backside!
This year, we have a full week leading up to Christmas Eve, but as a canny and experienced kitchen specialist, we always avoid full retail installations that week. And with most of our work involving a solid surface of one kind or another, we’ve pulled that back to starting dates of no later than December 5.
This, of course, means that an already short month is effectively further reduced by one week, but as a business we still require the turnover.
So we programme a lot of work into November, avoiding any major jobs involving long builds or extensions where we consider the client is being too optimistic about completion dates. We add a couple of weeks’ safety margin on to their dates, and if they then fall into December, we tell them it’s a January job. It’s better to let them down gently at the point of order than potentially ruin their Christmas.
This would all be fine, if it wasn’t for the customers and their builders.
There are several reasons why projects that should have been done and dusted in November end up rolling into December. Variations to contracts. Delays in supply of materials. Bifold doors and roof lights that can’t be ordered until the hole they’re destined for has been made. The weather. Builders who don’t tell the truth for fear of upsetting the client, but throw a spanner in the works for the kitchen company that follows them. Not to mention the failure to communicate with us far enough in advance to allow us to adjust our schedule.
Fortunately, our planned December jobs intentionally don’t involve end users who will be using their new pride and joy to help celebrate Christmas. We install developer kitchens and kitchens for consumers who won’t be in residence until the New Year. We do small makeovers, plus the odd replacement oven or dishwasher.
With any luck, and good planning, sales values for December will stay up where we need them to be. But then the drive to fill January, and at least some of February, before consumers switching off to home improvements adds more stress.
Amazingly, despite a post-Brexit plunge in the value of sterling, and a two- to three-week dip, we’ve never been so busy.
The British public seem to be taking the whole thing in their stride, telling themselves ‘life goes on’ and, well, just getting on with it.
Fingers crossed it carries on into the new year, as with pretty much all of our suppliers having hit us with price increases of between 5% and 12%, it’s going to be our specialist service that continues to make the difference and win us orders from our less professional competitors.
So Merry Christmas everybody – and have a large one on me!