An Independents view of the `big shed` kitchen brands

Designer Kitchen Furniture

In the home interiors industry there is generally two types of business offering their wares to consumers; the SME Independent (small to medium enterprise) and the Big Shed / Big Brand but whilst trade magazines have weekly letters from many an independent bemoaning the tactics of the big brands, for some independents (like Designer Kitchen Furniture of Manchester) the big brands/sheds aren’t considered a threat.

Kitchens-Kitchens spoke to Jordan Green, MD of Designer Kitchen Furniture about his business and the current home interiors environment.

KK – So why are the Big Sheds referred to with that label

JG – The big shed moniker comes from the vast warehouse like premises the likes of B&Q and IKEA operate from, and the general perception of the `stack em high, sell em low` mentality where price alone is the prime consideration and as such little to no attention is paid to providing a showroom, or creative display element. For a lot of independents, many will take the time to design nice interior displays to both showcase the product and the creative talents of the design team.

KK – You don’t consider the Big Sheds a threat to your business. Why is this?

JG – We sell bespoke kitchen furniture where the emphasis is on giving the customer exactly whatever we as designers and the customer can visualise for their kitchen, and there isn’t a Big Shed capable of offering the same service as ourselves.

IKEA, B&Q or even Homebase offering the Nobilia brand (relabelled Odina) sell set products at set prices and by sales staff, not designers so whilst they are appealing to many kitchen buyers, our offering of “Any size kitchen, in any design, in any shape and in any colour, of the customers choosing” is at the opposite end of the kitchen industry offering and so our profiles of customers don’t cross over.

KK – What are your thoughts on UK businesses/brands offering `German kitchens`?

JG – Again, like the bespoke versus flatpack or Big Shed kitchen, there are some kitchen buyers that will always stick to the brand they are familiar with or the one that best answers their needs and so the minority of the UK buyers who only buy German (about 5-10%), they will only ever buy German, and just like car buyers, they may decide to switch from Nobilia to Schuller, or Hacker to Poggenpohl  like car buyers switch between BMW, Audi, and Mercedes but you won’t persuade an Audi lover to buy Kia anymore than a Poggenpohl customer will switch to IKEA.

However, brand names aside, many UK kitchen buyers are won over by the atypical German kitchen (e.g. matt or gloss handle-less) and as such, they love the visual appeal but are not particularly bothered about buying German made, just German looking. We sell a great deal of kitchens like that but the difference with ours, is that whilst you can have Blum and Hettich components (just like from Nobilia for example) our customers can have their handle-less kitchen in literally thousands of colour choices, or indeed any bespoke colour of their choosing.

KK – What are the most popular types of kitchens being sold at the moment?

JG – The UK market is quite polarised in that there are two main types of kitchen that dominate, namely the contemporary handless and the classic and/or painted. Whilst the German brands do lots of volume of handle-less kitchens, and the Germans account for 5-10% of new kitchen sales in the UK, the Germans interpretation of the classic shaker style for example doesn’t cross over well and they simply don’t sell in the UK.

For obvious reasons, if you are happy with an off the shelf product, then a brand or big shed is ideal for you but our product is bespoke and so whilst we use modern manufacturing techniques (to lower the price to the customer) in addition to finishing by hand, our profile of customer is one who wants something bespoke but doesn’t want to pay the premium price tag from the likes of Mark Wilkinson and as previously discussed, someone who wants our type of kitchen isn’t someone who has gone to IKEA and been wowed but thinks the £999 price tag is still a bit steep.

KK – Lastly, there is lots of discontent in the Kitchen industry at present, what are your thoughts.

JG – Like any industry, there is a lot of competition in the kitchen trade and some of it is unfair to retailers in that some manufacturers (who are struggling themselves) are going back on previous market agreements/conditions and undercutting their own (independent) retailer network and selling direct to the consumer.

As a result of those kind of practices many independents who used to rely on those margins are suffering at a time when they need all the help they can get.

It’s easy for me to say this as we do have a unique selling point [in bespoke kitchens] but I think in a diluted market it can be very difficult to stand out but the independents I know to be doing well are those that have identified their strengths, identified what profile of kitchen customer they want to target and then re-focused their business accordingly.

Using big brand Nobilia as an example, they still continue to develop new shaker style kitchens and classic wood effect laminate doors but they just don’t sell and so you can argue that the big brands are also guilty of wasting time, energy and money making something that doesn’t sell. In their bid to capture more market share they don’t see that persuading consumers to change opinion doesn’t happen quickly, if at all, so my advice is to try and be known as a specialist rather than a generalist Jack of all Trades, Master of none.

Designer Kitchen Furniture is the Manchester Kitchens Specialist offering handcrafted, truly bespoke kitchens in Any Shape / Any Style / Any Size & Any Colour.

See www.designerkitchenfurniture.com for more details