Focus DIY sold off in parts

Following the recent administration of Focus DIY, a further eleven of its stores have been sold to B&Q Retail, by administrator Ernst & Young. Discount retailer B&N has 230 stores nationwide, selling household textiles, electrical goods, housewares and décor products. It attracts over one million customers a week. The purchase has saved more than 200 jobs. This  acquisition adds to the recent purchases of Focus DIY stores by B&Q and Travis Perkins, which owns the Wickes brand.

B&Q has already been reported to have bought 81 stores for £23 million while Travis Perkins has bought 13 for a reported £8.4million. Focus DIY had I78 stores employing nearly 4,000 people. There are also reports that Chris Dawson, owner of The Range homewares chain,  who bought all of MFI’s stock when it went under in 2008, is interested in the chain. The Focus DIY business was founded in I987 by Bill Archer when he bought six Choice DIY stores and rebranded them to Focus DIY a year later. The company then bought Wickes in 2000 in a deal worth a reported £296million, before selling Wickes on five years later to Travis Perkins.

Supermodel fronts Franke campaign

Celebrating its Centennial anniversary, Franke has invested in its most expensive press advertising campaign, to date, fronted by supermodel Heidi Klum. The aim of the multi-million pound campaign, said to be in double digits, is to move Franke from a product driven brand to an aspirational lifestyle brand. It has been designed to appeal to consumers, architects and kitchen designers and will be used throughout the world but the images are embargoed until June 1.  CEO of Franke Kitchens Systems group, Torsten Tuerling commented:
“As a globally recognisable face, Heidi Klum embodies the aesthetic and hardworking qualities of our products and systems and is someone who is instantly associated with good taste and effortless elegance.” He continued: “As the kitchen sink itself has been transformed from a simple household article into a lifestyle addition, our campaigns have evolved from product to an aspirational lifestyle focus that engages with our customers on a more  emotional level beyond functionality. We want to win minds and hearts for Franke”.

Sink and tap supplier the 1810 Company has re-launched its website

Sink and tap supplier the 1810 Company has re-launched its website, to make it more informative and easy to use. It features all the company’s products, a downloadable brochure, log-in for trade prices and a marketing page for dealers, with connection to its Facebook and twitter account.

E. Jones of Cleveland has been awarded the national contract for supplying and fitting worktops for Redrow Homes. The company will be providing granite and Silestone tops to over 50 different house types. According to E jones, Redrow is working on around 600 developments, with a minimum of 100 homes per development.

Showcasing its latest modular range, Shades has published its Relax and Revive brochure of bathroom furniture. The 80- page brochure includes the company’s modern and classic ranges, as well as a guide to bathroom planning. In addition, it introduces the reader to the core qualities of the brand, including its lifetime guarantee on all products.

Editors spot July 2011

I was always told that during polite conversation you’re not meant to discuss politics, religion or sex. But apparently, you can now add to that list, the suggestion that ‘peopIe don’t buy people they buy brands’. I made that ‘mistake’ in a recent blog on our website. I dared to suggest that the phrase ‘peopIe buy  people’ was a misnomer and there are a multitude of reasons why consumers make a purchase. The phrase ‘peop|e buy people’ suggests that people buy from you just because they like you or like what you do.

While, I said, they are just as likely to buy into a brand. |fit’s just a matter of ‘people buying people’, then why are internet sales booming… Then what a furore. Not quite a jonathan Ross and Russell Brand (oops, there I go again) scandal but there’s still more messages coming in. In spite of more retaliation, I thought I’d revisit this idea *heads down – incoming emaiIs*. I am sure there are some consumers where the product name is all that counts. There will always be a consumer that wants an Audi or a Mercedes; equally there will always be those who demand, Neff, Miele or Hansgrohe (for example). But equally important is where they buy. What about your showroom business, is that not a brand too? Therefore isn’t the cliché that ‘people buy people’ an oversimplification of kitchen and bathroom retailing? Employees are valuable to any business — yes, of course. And they all will have their independent skills.

But is it so inconceivable that consumers aren’t buyingjust into the designer – Bill or Kate – but are buying into customer service, the company ethos, product offer; reputation etc – the whole job lot- or THE BRAND. Why do consumers choose to purchase from john Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods or Harvey Nichols? Although I’m sure they have great sales staff, it’s not the sole reason. Consumers are getting ever more sophisticated about how they go about purchasing. And marketing is becoming increasingly clever to capture their interest. Are kitchen and bathroom showrooms keeping up with high street competitors by creating and maintaining their image? Perhaps, to ensure they are, we could exchange the phrase ‘peopIe buy peopIe’ for ‘Iiving the brand’?

With a background in bathroom retailing and manufacturing, commercial manager of Kohler and Daryl

Your background spans retailing and manufacturing…..

As part of my university degree, I completed a thesis on retail location based on the possible expansion of my Dad’s showroom. When I finished university, he allowed me to put it into practice. So, I opened a showroom in Newcastle and we bought another in Middlesborough. We dealt with BC Sanitan and Vernon Tutbury brands and I went to work for the parent company Jacuzzi UK as national sales manager; then group sales director.

What did your experience in retail bring to manufacturing?

Understanding retailers and knowing what they want. It’s about being easy to deal with and not putting barriers in the way of people wanting to spend money with you.

What does your role as commercial manager entail?

The big drive is getting the retail business back on track and increasing sales, by dealing with the people that are KohIer’s and Daryl’s heartland. We’re looking to grow Daryl by single figures but we want to double Kohler sales over the next two or three years. We’re not looking for a seismic shift in the market, we’re looking for Kohler to punch a little of its weight. At the moment, we may be 10% of a retailer’s bathroom spend. We want to be 30-40%. We’lI do that by having the right displays, in the right partners and offering a better service than we have historically – which we are already doing.

How have you improved your level of service?

It’s about concentrating on selling  the right level of product and not chasing volume. Everybody can experience problems but it’s about taking responsibility. We’ve empowered our field sales team to make decisions and created a tool to help them analyse showroom sales, by product group, and tying it back to displays.

What’s been the biggest gripe from retailers?

The internet. But if the market was buoyant, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is when everyone is fighting over sales and margin. Our belief is that you cannot get the service level or advice required to buy our product by the press ofa button. That is the driver behind a total restriction of Kohler Statement product online. We’ve had a couple of tough conversations with people who have showrooms and online businesses. But at the end of the day, we pick up the bits and pieces when the relationship between the retailer and consumer goes wrong. We’re about to announce exactly the same policy on Daryl.

How many retailers have you got for each brand?

We’ve got 175 Kohler retailers and 220 Daryl retailers, with around 70% crossover But we will be cutting the tail this year. We’ve got amazing brands and retailers shouldn’t have access to our product to have it in a corner and not sell it. Ideally, we would like to sell both brands through one outlet but it doesn’t always happen. Historically, we may have an area where one showroom has Kohler and another has Daryl and we’ve got to honour those relationships. But we get more out of  a retailer if they stock both brands in the way we can merchandise the product. In fact, we want to open five flagship stores across the UK, similar to our Clerkenwell showroom in London, where we partnered with West One.

What is going to be the greatest challenge in your new role?

The market is the challenge. It’s getting retailers to realise they can sell top-end products and not fear being undercut. I’ve seen so many retailers driving down the price of their suites to compete in markets, which they are never going to be successful in because they haven’t got the same buying power. We’ve just launched a professional retailer training course to help dealers maximise profit and return of display space, through sales skills. For the Kohler and Daryl brands it’s about restoring credibility. With the Kohler brand it’s about making people believe we’re going to deliver what we say, when we say. Daryl is about improving the product. We’re going to launch a new range in July, , another in September and another in 2012. In fact, by next year; all Daryl products will be less than 18 months old.

How will you benchmark the success of both brands?

When we have retailers calling us and asking us to put the products in r their showroom and when, in the longer-term, consumers go into showrooms and ask for our product. It depends how quickly we can engage retailers. Inside of six months we’ve seen 10% turnover increase in those retailers that have already engaged with us.

Legislation changes – Could you explain how the recent changes in the law, such as the increase in statutory sick pay, will affect my business as I don’t want to get caught out through negligence?

Business owners need to be aware of new legislation which sees a raft of important changes to the law, including increases in statutory sick pay, changes in tax rates and the end of most employers abilities to forcibly retire staff. The key legislative changes which business owners need to be aware of are:

• An increase in statutory sick pay, taking the weekly amount employers have to pay staff on sick leave from £79.15 to £81.60

• Alterations to the way National Insurance is calculated and the rates at which it is paid – employers will need to look at this in more detail.

• The effective ending of an empIoyer’s ability to issue six- month notifications of retirement using the statutory retirement procedure. The law still gives provision for some businesses to have a set retirement age but only if they can justify it objectively – generally only on health and safety grounds.

• The creation of an employers’ right to use positive discrimination as a tie-breaker when making decisions on recruitment and promotion.  When you’re busy running your own business, keeping abreast of the latest tweaks to the complex regulatory system can seem like the least of your worries.

However, any instances of a business failing to comply with a piece of legislation can have serious financial consequences, no matter how unintended or trivial the breach is. As a result, I would urge all business owners to familiarise themselves with changes to the law and seek professional advice if they are unsure what they need to do to comply. The Forum helps its members comply with employment law through its HR Director business support solution, which includes access to a HR advice helpline, a comprehensive print and online employment guide, and downloadable HR templates.

Anti-dumping tax

I have heard that there is an anti-dumping tax on tiles imported from China. We are a bathroom retailer and import quite a lot of tiles. What is dumping and how will this tax affect us? Does it also affect sanitaryware?

“Dumping” refers to products manufactured in one country and exported to another at prices either below the price charged in its home market or below the costs of production. The European Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association put forward a complaint to the EU in June 2010 claiming that Chinese manufacturers were dumping Chinese ceramic tiles onto the European market at “unfair” prices, to the detriment of the European tile industry.

The complaint was fully investigated by the EU, and it was agreed by Member states to impose provisional tariffs on ceramic tiles from China. The provisional tariff varied according to the cooperation given by each manufacturer during the investigation process, and the rates are between 26 and 73%. In the UK, the tariff is payable once tiles have cleared customs to HMRC. The EU has six months in which to confirm the tariffs, which can be in place for up to five years. During the six-month  provisional phase HMRC will charge the tariff and place monies into a holding account. If the tariff is confirmed they will pay the money to the Exchequer, if it is not, they will refund the tariff.

The tariffs apply to all ceramic tiles landing in Europe after March 18 2011. The HMRC website has full information about anti-dumping complaints and how they are handled. Does this affect sanitaryware? No, the complaint only involved ceramic tiles. The Tile Association represents the whole of the UK wall and floor tile industry under one organisation. Any company with all or part of its business linked to tiles can apply to join. You will find more information at

How do I decide which products to display in my showroom and what should I consider when it comes to showroom design?

Identify your customer demographic and showroom requirements and aim to fulfill them to maximise sales. A rural or older housing area will need a larger selection of traditional product, whereas in areas where large numbers of retired or older people live, displaying a range of fully-inclusive product, such as walk – in baths and easy-access showers, will drive sales. lf younger professionals fill your showroom, offer contemporary product such as innovative auto flush WCs and remote control showers and remember to include eco—friendly products such as 4-litre flush WCs and water-saving taps and showers.

Ask yourself a few questions:

What will the product add to the showroom?

Does it offer you a new avenue of sales or is it just  more of the same?

How do the sales team feel about the product, supplier, quality of supply and its potential for increased sales?

How does the company concerned support you with brochures, POS, and product training?

Evaluate all ofthe products you have on display ls there a lot of duplication?

Which products sell the least amount?

Identifying the products relevant to your customers’ needs, and those not already in your  offering, will boost sales and include accessories, mirrors and radiators to dress the areas. Themed areas can help significantly with bringing products to life and demonstrating their look and style in the context of a real bathroom. This is a technique that can work particularly well with easy access products, for example. Product design has come a long way in this sector and, by showcasing products like low-level shower trays, walk-in showers and baths, and comfort height WCs in a contemporary bathroom setting, you can demonstrate to customers that they can achieve the perfect combination of style and function. This increases their market appeal and therefore sales value. Branded products are instantly familiar to your customers inspiring confidence to purchase.

Effective point-of-sale such as logos and name plates indicating the brand identity maximises these benehts within the showroom. Banners, posters and brochures all highlight the product to consumers in their selection process. Finally, maintain your showroom and keep it clean, well-presented, complete and well lit. Continually review the showroom design and its contents, replacing discontinued product and non-sellers for more effective displays.

Furniture component manufacturer Vauth-Sagel introduces Premea Glassline

Furniture component manufacturer Vauth-Sagel has introduced Premea Glassline, a basket range featuring a choice of plastic, glass, wood or stone side panels. Premea Glassline is available in the companys HSA tall cabinet pull-outs, DUSA storage cabinets, Baseliner base cabinets and also in its DSA side pull-outs. In addition, Premea Glassline can also be used on the Recorner Maxx Corner solution and Wari-Corner It is pictured here in a corner solution, featuring plastic side panels.

To ease the installation of its built-in appliances, Whirlpool has created the Pro Fit system. lt has been applied to its ovens, microwaves, coffee machines, dishwashers, built-in fridge freezers and side-by-side products. Microwaves can be secured using two screws, dishwashers have a Cut Out allowing utility pipes to run behind without re-routing, a Door Fix template eliminates measurement and XL Feet give 30mm of extra height under a 900mm high worktop.

Zehnder has introduced the Roda towel rail to its collection, available in a range of colours and sizes. The rail is fitted with an integral warm—air fan which is manually operated and runs for preset periods of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour or two hours. Roda features a warning signal for when the filter needs cleaning and can also be fitted with an immersion heater for use when the central heating is turned off.

The CP Group has extended its Enki collection of glass splashbacks to now offer 27 options. The Bright range within the collection offers Red, Orange, Pink and Lime green shades ,whi|e the Muted range offers Chocolate, Mink and Sage colours. Also included is the Mono range, Animal Magic, Flambe, Stripe, Utensils, and Retro ranges. All of the latest additionscome in a 600 x 700mm format.

Granite Transformations introduces three Trend Prestige designs

Granite Transformations has introduced three Trend Prestige designs, which is engineered stone featuring a veining pattern. It includes Nero Marquis, a midnight black quartz, Cape Cod Green, and Fire Beige. There is no price premium for the Prestige collection, although extra material may be required for matching the pattern, as it cascades over the edge.

Extending its range of Infinity mirrors, HQB has added the Orion LED mirror to the collection. Orion features an optical effect which allows the lights to curve and it can be hung as a portrait or landscape mirror Measuring 845 x 615 x 50mm and framed in silver painted wood, the unit complies with the IP44 ratings.

Six ranges of splashbacks have been introduced, by Steve Robinson Glass. The splashbacks are available in a standard 9000 x 7000mm panel, with bespoke designs and sizes also available. Colonsay, Earth, Mono, Retro, Stripe and Wave ranges feature natural bubbles to reflect light and colour ln addition, there is also a range of matching tiles, in a variety of sizes. The Stripe range features nine designs including: Beach Hut, Blue Stripe, Fresh, Liquorice, Neapolitan, Tortoiseshell, Vibe, Lush and Salsa.

LDL Components has introduced a range of Form-Line cutlery trays in Silk White to complement its Blum Intivo drawer boxes in Silk White. The plastic trays can be used in 450mm and 500mm depth drawers and suit cabinet widths from 300mm to 1000mm. In addition, a white version of its Supergrip, non- slide matting has also been introduced.

ATK launches a range of air-tight kits

Adding to its offering, iglass has launched a range of coloured glass radiators. The range is available in seven standard sizes, in a choice of 26 colours with a polished aluminum surround. The radiators feature bi-directional valves to allow vertical or horizontal mounting and are designed for general use with conventional central heating systems.

ATK has launched a range of air-tight kits, designed to provide an air-tight seal for waste, soil and overflow pipes. The kits claim to save energy, as well as prevent costly re-tests and the use of remedial foam-based sealants if incorporated at the design or build stage. The ATK Connectors are manufactured with high grade ABS and galvanised rubber seals and the kits are available in 21 mm, 42mm and 110mm sizes.