Below is Derek`s column in February`s kbb magazine.
I was interested to read about Homebase’s new strategy to position itself as a Home Interiors specialist rather than a simple DIY company. I’ve always felt that the big sheds could pose a huge threat to independent retailers if they got their act together, especially if they got their mitts on the great brands. So it’ll be interesting to see how the Homebase offer evolves over time.
In countries such as the USA, it is the norm for large sheds (such as Home Depot) to hold the main bathroom brands, which must have a major effect on the independent sector in those markets. In the UK, the majority of manufacturers prefer their routes to market being via the independents, which is hugely important to us all. If the sheds started stocking more recognised brands, the effect would be lethal on an independent sector struggling to cope with the triple attack of recession, the internet, and over-provision of outlets.
We must hope that companies such as B&Q and Homebase continue to source their own ranges and collections, and not take us on, head to head, in the luxury branded sector. By positioning itself above the standard DIY offer, Homebase will have to appeal to the more aspirational client, and whether a large barn-like shopping experience can achieve this will remain to be seen. However, its buying power and capitalisation alone should make all independents sit up and take notice.
On a lighter note, I was amused by Homebase’s market segmentation categories whereby the two main customer types were known internally as ‘Helen the Home Enhancer’ and ‘Bob the DIY Enthusiast’. I wonder whether this reflects the retail bathroom sector as a whole? In Glasgow, we would have to add ‘Willie the Wide-Boy’ and ‘Davie the Discount Demander’ to complete the full array of client types frequenting our stylish showrooms.
Kitchens Kitchens Editor Jeff Russell on Derek`s column and Homebase…
Much of what Derek says is right and we at Kitchens Kitchens respect Derek`s opinion very well and wish his Scope Bathrooms all the success!
Only this week Tesco announced it was pulling out of the US and with its Jack of All Trades, Master of none ethos in terms of being not just a food retailer but a retailer of everything, including kitchens personally I feel that there is no place for Tesco in the kitchen industry and I see its future as limited as the assembled flat-pack kitchens it sells, which is not its core business, and one it can’t do a convincing job in, other than the lowest end of the market.
So with this in mind, onto Homebase, which is at least in the same broad industry, i.e. Home Improvements and Home Interiors and its shift away from a DIY brand to a Home Interiors brand.
Homebase have already started sourcing from outside their own supply chain and in some UK stores Homebase have been selling re-branded Nobilia kitchens for some time, and although Derek says, “we must hope that Homebase continue to source their own ranges and collections, and not take us on, head to head, in the luxury branded sector” being in bathrooms perhaps he isn’t aware of this development but in keeping with the tone of Derek`s column I`m happy to report (for the independents out there) that Homebase kitchens, i.e. their rebranded Nobilia kitchens, which it markets as Odina Kitchens, hasn’t been too much of a threat to independents who sell Nobilia kitchens close to Homebase stores.
I spoke with several independents in and around the Oxford, Reading, and West London areas, whom sell Nobilia kitchens, and I asked them about the “Threat of Homebase” and I was generally told the same thing by all of those I asked.
I generally found that before Homebase Kitchens (i.e. Odina Kitchens) were promoted, there was largely a lot of fear about the impact but the reality, now its happened, is that the independents don’t really see Homebase as a real threat. The reason was that whilst like for like prices to the consumer are about the same, in terms of the Nobilia furniture alone, what made the independents stand out and actually took business from Homebase was the independents superior design skills, customer service, product knowledge and industry knowledge.
If anything the flow of customers was from Homebase to the independents, and not the other way around as was first feared.
A kitchen isn’t just about the door or cabinet choice, it includes appliances, and all manners of accessories from decorative features, floor and wall coverings, lighting, etc etc etc and whilst Homebase employ `kitchen consultants`, they get a £14k basic and a few weeks training. You don’t learn about the wealth of products available on the market in a couple of weeks and let us not forget, Homebase employees sell Homebase products so if you want Homebase everything then fair enough, but if they don’t stock your preferred appliances or accessories then Homebase kitchens start to become a DIY kitchen with the consumer doing more and more of the project management.
Contrast this to the independents, like Derek (in bathrooms) or those in the kitchen trade that sell Nobilia whom have largely spent their working lives in the industry and amassed a life time of knowledge and developed a life-long passion for all things bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms, and ask yourself, who is going to care more about customers, the Homebase retail assistant (i.e. kitchen consultant) or an independent whose life and livelihood centre around their business?
No disrespect to Homebase `kitchen consultants` and I wish you all the best but until Homebase start buying up independent Nobilia dealers and integrate the independent business owners into the Homebase structure, both I, and those Nobilia dealers I spoke to don’t see Homebase as a real threat.
Perhaps Homebase kitchens under their Odina brand are going to be better serviced in the supply-only market such as independent property developers?