Steve Collinge, commercial director of Insight Retail Group (IRG), has defended his company’s decision to launch kitchen-compare.com, a consumer price comparison website for the kitchen market.
Collinge joined the kbbreview Kitchen Conference as a last-minute guest speaker in order to present the concept of the website and canvas opinion among independent kitchen retailers.
He informed delegates that the website was launched after IRG identified a gap in the market. The website, he added, was developed to help “demystify” kitchen planning and make it less confusing as the group claims that UK consumers are currently faced with a “bewildering array” of designs, prices, promotions and information.
Kitchen-compare.com promises to provide an independently price checked comparison of kitchens from leading multiples, Wickes, B&Q and Homebase that will make the decision process easier for consumers, with prices updated regularly, allowing the user to save time, money, energy and frustration.
However, Collinge’s presentation sparked anger among delegates who claimed the site would undermine their businesses.
One independent retailer said: “Kitchen comparison websites destroy retailer margins in every industry they exist in. You have already pointed out to me today that you don’t understand our products. Why do you think that any retailer would want to cooperate with somebody who’s going to destroy their margins?”
Collinge responded by saying it is not the intention of IRG to de-value the market with the launch of its kitchen-comparison website. Instead, the main aim of the site is simply to help educate consumers in the kitchen planning process.
He also revealed IRG’s short-term plans to expand the number of companies included on the site to seven and urged independent retailers to embrace the site and use it as a tool that they can use to compare their prices with competitors.
Another delegate, Tim Gent, national trade sales manager of Hepplewhite, accused IRG of launching the website purely for commercial gain rather than a tool to help consumers and independent kitchen retailers.
“You said that IRG has launched the website to help consumers but I would say actually it’s more about a desire to create a website that ultimately earns IRG money from advertising revenue rather than demystifying issues around kitchen pricing,” he said. “You said that the website will eliminate the need for consumers to get quotes from a number of retailers in order to make an informed decision but that strips away what buying a kitchen is all about.”
In response Collinge said: “The website currently does not generate revenue, whether it will in the future I can’t say but from a business perspective of course I hope so. But, either way it doesn’t change what we are trying to achieve here.”
For more on the kitchen-compare.com see: Kitchen Comparison Site Launches
The comment above that one independent retailer said to Collinge: “Kitchen comparison websites destroy retailer margins in every industry they exist in" does offer a point for some serious debate as some Insurance firms (Churchill?) are proud to announce they are not on comparison sites?
As highlighted in our previous piece, we at Kitchens Kitchens dont really see this as a threat to the SME kitchen retailers, unless they are selling flat-pack and compete direct with B&Q? And as with car insurance, like a bank account or a mortgage, it is easy to compare on a like for like basis but kitchens (perhaps like pensions or investments) can be bought without advice but the independent retailer should really be offering a consultative service and thats something the comparison sites cant compare..