Can Kitchen and other Kbb Virtual Appointments be a suitable lifeline to Kbb retailers as we look to emerge from the Corona-virus Lockdown and get the economy moving again, albeit slowly?
You only have to look at the roads and most public transport outside of the London Tube in the last 48 hours (since lockdown was gradually eased) to see that whilst the economy is gradually be nursed back into life, there still exists, a real worry to the buying public and there was not the mass return to work on Wednesday that many had predicted.
Marketing Consultant Lee Oakley suggests, "For many consumers, the stark reminder is that they still cant freely socialise with their family yet, so given this, encouraging people back to work will be a gradual process were some will be more cautious than others and firms need to strike the right balance in not forcing employees back, especially if they have not been able to fully implement PPE and social distancing measures."
Oakley added, "..firms also need to be mindful that for most industries demand will also return gradually and there will be a vastly increased awareness in respect of personal safety and hygiene that businesses dealing with the public will have to overcome if they are to have a chance in persuading customers to leave their homes."
With most Kbb retailers forced to close and government advice actively discouraging home improvement to avoid a run on the likes of B&Q, in favour of retailers only selling products targeted at home repair, the re-opening of Wren last week, was met with mixed reviews at the time.
Ultimately Trading Standards got involved and approved of Wren's decision to reopen and whilst this doesn’t give direct permission for other kitchen, bedroom and bathroom showrooms to open, there is an inference that anyone else selling similar Kbb products is now able to operate in the same way and start re-opening.
In further support of this issue the Kbsa made the decision to advise members that they can open their showrooms for business so long as the latest government guidelines are respected and adhered to.
Shane Swift, MD of one of the UK's leading Schuller Kitchens retailers (JWK) told Kitchens-Kitchens that he understood the concerns of the consumer and that whilst he was re-opening his Cheadle, Manchester showroom on Monday 18th May and respecting social distancing. That he was also implementing a rigorous cleaning and twice daily deep clean and that all staff would be wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
He added that they would continue to offer Virtual Appointments to those not quite ready to leave the comfort of their homes.
Swift said; "The great thing with Schuller is that with such a respected brand name you know the quality of the furniture is assured. So to is the ordering and delivery. There are no surprises"
"It is to be expected that for some time yet, the footfall kitchen retailers got from passing trade is all but dead and that for kitchens, buying habits will continue to shift into virtual channels, were brand names have traditionally faired better."
Can Virtual Appointments be a KBB Lifeline?
Schuller retailer Swift thinks they can help and whilst his showroom is of a sufficient size to easily accommodate social distancing, others may not be able to do so as well and in those cases virtual appointments could be even more of a lifeline.
Swift added, "Whilst we sell Schuller, myself and my staff have had a lifetime in kitchens but we are also an independant and its the independents that are ideally placed to offer their skill set in a virtual appointment. The big sheds that have in-house kitchen design traditionally rely heavily on easy to use kitchen design software but the staff themselves are not designers and they would likely be out of the depth in asking a customer to do some measurements via smart phone or tablet, using Zoom or Skype. This is were independents whom offer the superior skills and service can really shine."
If you are in the North West and would like to consider a Schuller German kitchen for your next project you can book a Schuller Virtual Design Appointment at www.german-kitchens.uk.com
Swift has a point as the independents have always been regarded as having far superior product knowledge, design skills and customer service than the big sheds so perhaps smaller and virtual is the way forward?