Bathstore branches into kitchens and bedrooms

Bathstore chief executive Gary Favell has launched a kitchen and bedroom side to the business, initially using stores in Farnborough and the Lakeside Shopping Centre.

Both sites were formerly used by failed retail chain Betta Living. Bathstore had a concession agreement with the company until last November when it went into administration.

The new showrooms feature a ‘Haus Store’ fascia under the strapline, ‘Quality kitchens and bedrooms from Germany.’ The company will also offer a full installation and after-care service.

The move marks a return to the kitchen sector for Favell, who spent 16 years with Magnet before becoming CEO of troubled retail chain MFI, which collapsed back in 2008. He was recruited to run Bathstore by then parent company Endless LLP in June 2012.

Gary Favell, CEO, Bathstore
Gary Favell, CEO, Bathstore

Speaking exclusively to kbbreview, Favell stressed that this was a “trial run” for the venture, but he was optimistic that there was a place for the haus store brand in the “mid to upmarket” kitchen and bedroom sector.

He declined to reveal which furniture supplier the company was using, but said it was “a mainstream high-end German manufacturer – not Nobilia”.

“This gives us a better opportunity to gain access to retail parks,” Favell explained. “Bathstore on its own is too small a footprint. That’s why we started as a concession partner with Betta Living.

“We’ve always had an eye on kitchens but we were happily going along partnering with Betta Living until they decided to drop the bombshell. We’d already been approached by various kitchen people because of our background. Our decision was speeded up by the unfortunate circumstance of Betta Living going under.”

He admitted it was “really difficult to say” how many kitchen and bedroom outlets he was ultimately looking for but that he’d already been encouraged by consumer reaction to the idea.

“Let’s see how the trial works, then it’s all about getting the right locations,” he said. “It’s really early days but there are plenty of opportunities in that mid to upper market. The reason we’re doing the trial is so we don’t set targets we can’t achieve or are too easy. We only launched on April 14 but the early signs from customer feedback are very strong.”

Favell said the new kitchen ranges “span different price points” but are “on a par with Kutchenhaus”. More than 30 kitchen designs are available from traditional through to ‘ultra modern’, each in its own range of finishes. Two ‘versatile bedroom collections’ complete the new offering.

“It comes in at the affordable level if required but it can also take the quality and price level up to higher bands than you would get in some of the mid market players,” he said.

“The whole point is we’re leveraging the infrastructure we have in the organisation for fitting. We have three or four years now of developing that. Even though it’s different products we can start to manage kitchen fits. The management of the process is very similar. It’s being able to manage the project that’s key.

“We’re offering security around a national brand. This answers those negative pundits who said we would cock up on the installation of bathrooms. We can give a security element around someone who wants a fitted kitchen, as opposed to the ‘mama and papa’ situation of ‘are they going to be around to service the project?’ ”

Asked if he thought franchising and branding would be a growing trend in the KBB sector, Favell said: “We’re in a position now where we want to own our businesses. We don’t want to be at the mercy of another Betta Living situation. We’re more about owning our own destiny. We were only in [Betta Living stores] about a year, having invested heavily in the display base. Then they go bust, so it wasn’t a pleasant experience for us.

“It’s sad that a long-established brand like Betta Living has gone under,” he added, “but the market has got pretty tough in that arena with people like Wren. I’ve never found them to be anything other than on the ball and good people to work with. [Former CEO] Noel Dean is a really good bloke and he’s obviously really sad that it’s happened.”

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