If tthere’s the opportunity to combine work with a trip to a premier shopping district, it’s a must-do, especially when you’re visiting a £1 million kitchen showroom. Kiitchenhaus recently relocated its Manchester business to the stylish Barton Square development at Trafford Retail Park, creating an 8,000sq ft flagship showroom. And to say they are pleased with the outcome would be an understatement. Director Norman Parker says: “This is already exceeding [the original] Manchester [store] pre-recession. We’ve been open exactly two months and sold about three quarters of a million pounds, through June and July, which are our quietest months. Traditionally, September and October should be double July and August.” Regional manager Tony Walsh agrees: “The move was an absolute no-brainer.
Perfect trading position
Sited alongside Habitat, Laura Ashley and Next Home, the quantity and quality of sales has boosted business. Norman Parker continues: “We’re seeing a better class of clientele. Gary Neville was in here yesterday. Paddy McGuinness was in last week and some guy from Coronation Street was in the week before. In the old store, the average order value was around £9,000. Here it’s about £12,000. But we are selling £5,000 £8,000 kitchens as well. There is the general perception that German kitchens are expensive. We aren’t.” But it’s a rather stylish store to showcase affordable kitchens? Norman replies: “People want to see what they’ve dreamed about and too many showrooms compromise. In a limited space, they’Il put a display on top ofanother one. You have to be able to look at a whole room. To be honest, we borrowed the showroom idea from Audi and BMW they’re not cluttered with cars. We did it on purpose because we want people to be overwhelmed and think ‘l can’t afford this! When they find out they can, it’s a pleasant surprise. The key is to talk to everybody that comes through the door”.
Separate sales advisors
To ensure that each customer is spoken to, unusually Kutchenhaus has divided the role of designer and salesperson. As Tony Walsh comments: “We have four designers and four full-time lead takers who are here to educate the consumer about the product and talk to them about budget.” Norman continues: “It works very well from a commercial point of view because that lead taker is perceived by the customer as being on their side. If the customer doesn’t buy, the lead taker can ring up and ask “how did the designer do for you?’ To be honest, it’s completely mercenary. The by-product is that we are able to demonstrate our product without the customer feeling under pressure to buy. lt’s a case of you tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what we can do.You can have a consumer coming in with a huge appliance shopping list but a budget of £5,000 – it’s not going to happen. But you can have that conversation without going into two hours of designing a kitchen”
Although commercially driven, surprisingly Kutchenhaus doesn’t charge for design. Norman says: “| would love to charge for design. I don’t want to be the first one to break cover and do that. The day that Magnet does it, I’II do it.
Driving sales volume
Nobilia makes no excuses for its focus on driving volume sales through independent stores and its Ktitchenhaus branded outlets. As Norman explains: “The factory makes 2,500 kitchens to order a day. That’s why it’s so efficient.”
He explains the differences between Kutchenhaus and independent showrooms: “The problem a lot of independents are great designers, know kitchens inside out but they haven’t got the business acumen. Volume scares them. If you go to an independent as a builder and say l’ve got 10 houses – they are frightened. lf you are scared of the risk, take the money up front.”
But to gain the volume through its own stores, as well as independent showrooms, isn’t Nobilia in danger of being accused of running with the hare and the hounds? Norman shrugs offany such accusations: “NobiIia won’t deal with anybody that they can’t get insurance cover on. With the Mommas and the Poppas stores, you’re not going to get insurance cover on them. When Nobilia used to talk to us about UK retail sales, we always used to end the conversation with ‘if you want to do retail – do it yourself’.” He confesses: “We have maybe a dozen independents in the UK. But a lot of independents would look at this and say ‘why would I want to sell the same products as these guys. If I was an independent, I would open a showroom three miles away with this product, displayed in the same way in three, four or five roomsets. I would bring customers here and then take them back to my showroom. We are a commercial business and we’re never going to be able to offer the level of service that a true independent can give.”
Future franchise opportunity
Despite the recession, Kutchenhaus has been robust. As Norman comments: “In a 12 month period we opened York, Hull and Sutton Coldfield. But there’s room for a smaller showroom to be a Kutchenhaus franchise. I don’t know how many kitchen retailers really have the bottle to do it. But they would experience something they haven’t experienced before – this.”