‘Brands and franchises are the future,’ claims Alno boss

Jonathon Wagstaff, chief executive of Alno International, has said that franchises and brands will play a major role in the kitchen industry of tomorrow.

In a keynote interview at the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference in Birmingham, Wagstaff (pictured), who also heads up Alno’s UK franchise chain in-toto, told delegates that, as consumers become more demanding and competition intensifies, brands and franchises will have a more prominent place in the market.

“There are already lots of brands going down the franchise route these days – Mobalpa, Schmidt and Kutchenhaus, for example,” he said. “That’s why I see brands and franchising becoming a major part of the UK industry, particularly as retailers have to compete for the same business with the likes of Wren, Howdens and B&Q.

“We already have a network of 50 in-toto franchises in the UK. We’re growing every year and we very much intend to focus on our brand and improve the services we offer.

“Consumers, because they have a much wider knowledge and understanding of the buying process these days, are demanding more and also want the security that they feel a well-known brand can give them.”

Wagstaff’s comments echoed those voiced recently by kbbreview columnist and commercial director of Swift Electrical Wholesale, Malcolm Scott.

Scott told kbbreview that he predicts the number of kitchen franchise showrooms will double over the next 10 years and, ultimately, that this type of retail model will dominate the UK kitchen market.

Wagstaff also revealed that its in-toto retail business was up by 40% and that this success was down to a better market and a more focused consumer.

“Consumers are more focused on the buying cycle now and are more clued-up than ever before,” Wagstaff said. “Whether we like it or not, consumers are researching online first before they buy, and if you’re not first on a Google search, or you’re not clear with your message, then they’ll sneak past. So, you have to have a good website that works on all devices.”

Despite the company’s strong performance, he admitted that the two major challenges affecting the retail brand are its “complexity” and finding the right staff.

“The kitchen retail business is naturally becoming more complex,” he said. “There are different systems, different styles, different appliances, etc, across the board and we need to try to find a way to simplify what we do and use technology to add more to what we do.

“The other issue is that retailers are still struggling to find good staff. That’s why anyone setting up an in-toto franchise gets three months compulsory training. After that, we then station a franchise manager in that store one day a week, for six months.

“I would encourage other retailers to invest in training to make sure their staff engage with customers better and ultimately generate more revenue.”

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