What is the kitchen industry?

Swift Electrical’s commercial director, Malcolm Scott, looks at the varied players that make up the kitchen industry, calls for more wide-ranging qualifications and takes a look back at sales statistics for 2016 and who sold what

When we talk about the kitchen industry, exactly who do we include? Clearly, it includes the estimated 3,300 kitchen studios that make up the specialist sector, covering everyone from workshops with showrooms to Dream Door franchises, Wren, In-toto, independent kitchen studios, premium builders merchant showrooms and ‘store in store’ showrooms.

But do we include those who work from home, those who design and sell kitchens for DIY sheds, merchant-to-builder specialists and kitchen furniture manufacturers who predominantly supply to house builders, such as Moores Furniture?

Is the view from Kestrel Kitchens of Norwich the same as that from RG Coles of Essex? The former manufactures its own furniture on-site and specialises in the ‘top-end’. The latter has provided quality affordable kitchens from its three well-established showrooms for over 25 years and has given thousands of clients great Neff appliances, Franke sinks and JJO furniture, with a service that ensures clients come back and recommend them.

Are their training needs the same? Do they have anything in common except that they both sell kitchens? Well, of course they do – they both want to ensure that consumers are confident when dealing with our industry and enjoy the experience.

Moving out a little wider, is a designer in a builders merchant showroom in provincial Grantham any less of a designer than one in a ‘top end’ London studio?

While consumer expectations of both designers, and the likely budget, will differ greatly, a good designer selling kitchens at £10,000 for smaller homes from a less prestigious venue is just as much part of the kitchen industry as a designer based in Wigmore Street selling kitchens at £80,000.

The one thing we should all have learnt from Brexit is that there are a very large number of people living outside London and the metropolitan centres and they have a different lifestyle from city dwellers – and very different priorities. A really good designer is one who always leaves the client feeling very happy that they got what they wanted. Design is not art, kitchens are a functional part of daily life.

Looking at the next strand of the kitchen industry, even the DIY sector is part of the industry. These retailers sell kitchens, as does Howdens – lots and lots of them. For many consumers, a look at a kitchen in a DIY shed while they are picking up some paint for the garden fence is their most frequent exposure to our sector. Just look at the Ikea car park on a bank holiday weekend – they have the kind of footfall the rest of the sector can only dream about. These types of outlets are a very important part of the overall turnover of many of the big-name manufacturers.

And when we talk about what the kitchen industry thinks, do we include the manufacturers who run large factories employing thousands of staff to feed the sector? Companies like Omega with its big modern factory in Doncaster – its output is 100% kitchen furniture, so all its employees are part of the kitchen industry.

The question ‘what does the kitchen sector think’ just serves to remind us all that it is a very big industry and each of us is simply a small part of a larger jigsaw.

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