Wayne Dance (pictured), managing director of KBB distributor InHouse, has warned independents that other retail chains are likely to follow Bathstore’s decision to launch German-made kitchens.
The bathroom retail chain is initially using showrooms in Farnborough, Hampshire and the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex for the trial ‘Haus Store’ venture. Both sites were formerly used by failed multiple Betta Living. Bathstore had a concession agreement with the company until last November when it went into administration.
“I believe that more UK sheds like B&Q and Wickes will dip their toe in this market,” Dance told kbbreview. “Homebase have already tried with Nobilia and Nobilia also have their own Kuchenhaus franchises. There is no doubt that backing their massive TV and advertising campaigns with a ‘made in Germany’ sticker on it gives credibility.”
However, Dance questioned whether the multiples could ever achieve the same levels of customer care as the independents.
“The biggest problem for them is that they want to do this but never quite manage to match the quality of service offered by the retail specialist,” he said. “Firstly these places have big turnovers of staff so even their well-trained CAD salespeople tend to move around a lot. Those who are good enough probably don’t earn the same size of earnings package that they can working for a well-run retail specialist.”
John Pollit, sales and marketing director with KBB supplier JJO, agreed that service would be a key issue for Bathstore but claimed getting the fitting side right would be even more important. “Bathstore will stand or fall on product, service and installation,” he said. “The latter being the most critical element. Gary Favell is no stranger to kitchens and will know what he is letting himself in for. He obviously recognises that it is a different beast to bathrooms by offering the full installation service.”
Dance also said he “sympathised” with retailers who found their suppliers making deals with multiple chains to increase revenue.
“We know how difficult it can be for the independent retailer,” he said. “They select a manufacturer and invest in their showroom displays, marketing and point of sale believing that they are providing a product that’s unique and special. Then that same manufacturer goes and launches against them in a franchise that’s got big marketing bucks behind it. That just smacks of corporate greed.”