Going for the treble

It’s been thirteen years since Manchester United did the treble. But, in the kbb ‘premier’ league, Kitchen Architecture is hoping to match its achievement. After winning Master Retailer of the Year with its Putney showroom for the last two consecutive years, the business has been short-listed for a third year running. Now its Oxford showroom is planning to take the crown.

Managing director and owner Robert Gelling entered the Master Retailer Award category because he believes: “It is a reflection of all- round business performance” With little expectations of what the award would do for their business when they first entered it, Robert comments: “lt has been great. Being able to get leverage off it, especially in a difficult market place, you want to have as many levers as possible to win client confidence. It’s another string to your bow and it’s something else to talk about.”

So what does it take to win? Robert says: “Our service and knowledge is very strong. We have extremely well- qualified staff that have worked in the high-end interior industry for a long time. We are focused on our vision to be the best provider of high-end kitchens in the industry and that’s what we get all the staff to focus on as well. We work hard at it and try and train the staff as much we possibly can, so they have all the information at hand and can be good sales consultants to their clients.”

This three-strong showroom business started as a husband and wife team in Oxford in 2002. According to Robert, it’s now the largest independent designer and retailer of Bulthaup kitchens in Europe. Armed with a degree in furniture design, Robert left The Conran Shop in London, joined the kitchen industry and built up a good client base of interior designers and architects, before setting up his own retail business.

Now, the business has showrooms in Oxford, Putney and since the beginning of this year also Wilmslow in Cheshire. But they haven’t stopped there. Robert and his wife have also recently opened a fourth showroom in Oxford, but this time with a traditional offering. The studio is branded Teddy Edwards, after the companys own brand of classical furniture. Robert explains the decision: “We have the best contemporary product and we really wanted to create the best hand- crafted product and be able to sen/ice all our clients. Working with architects and interior designers, we have clients with different tastes, so we are able to service them with that product range as well.” But all the showrooms have one commonality, they are designed to capture kitchen sales.

Robert explains: “We focus on making them the best sales tool possible and again, trying to give the client as much information as we can as to the product ranges and how we design, so we can explain the theory to them as we are showing them around. lt helps them visualise what they would be getting in their own space. We try and set them all up as working kitchens.” They don’t do things by halves and the Putney showroom launch not only had a personal appearance from Heston Blumenthal but he also offered to cater for the event, after his restaurant and house had work completed by Kitchen Architecture.

But, Robert is a firm believer in word of mouth and although they hold showroom events, his main way of attracting footfall is through the case studies on their website and local recommendations. Robert says: “We do advertise but not greatly. We try and focus on just doing a good job for our clients and that’s how I think we have managed to survive and grow – by being a repeat-order business and not relying on every sale that comes through the door; but building on referrals or recommendations. You only get those if you do a good job.

And so thats what we have focused on. We do some local advertising and then we do some national advertising in conjunction with Bulthaup. But, I think, we also probably do quite well from case studies in consumer magazines.”

Their plans are now to focus on pushing sales through the Wilmslow showroom and getting the same level of brand recognition for its Teddy Edwards showroom. Robert says: “We are really focusing on getting these showrooms up and running because we had a huge stage of investment last year: So we need to get as many kitchens sales as we can through the showrooms.” Robert is keen to add: “I think nobody can say it has been easy We have been very fortunate that we have been able to survive and grow during the recession. It has been hard work and you get out what you put in.

You have to get your head down and work hard and really not lose focus. It is quite easy to panic and cut quality and cut corners, but the clients will see that and lose confidence and you have got to work hard and make sure you keep them happy You have to just do the best you can,” They are further looking into social media to see what it could do for their business.

Best of luck to them and all the other finalists for this year’s lndustry Awards. Will it be the first treble for the kbb industry? Now that would be a good first tweet.