Opinion is very subjective and just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to is the beast and whilst there are no doubt well deserved cases of horror stories and happy stories written by consumers and available online, consumer action group Which? takes the process a stage further and makes a basis for comparison.
This article is based upon the findings of the last ‘best and worst kitchen brands’ survey that Which? performed in March 2011, which included; the best and worst kitchen brands, including Homebase, Idea and Howdens reviewed and rated and voted for by thousands of customers, with comparisons on typical prices of different kitchens, from budget to premium.
However, it is worth noting that whilst ‘Independent kitchen company’ was rated alongside Ikea, John Lewis, Howdens Joinery, Wickes, Magnet, Homebase and B&Q and with an overall sample size of 3,346, with 1080 tabled under ‘Independent kitchen company’ (sadly) Which? didn’t then go on to explain whether this was 1000 kitchens from a 1000 different independents, and considering national shed such as Homebase had 110 results, B&Q 245, Moben less than 30, Magnet 216, and Howdens (arguably one of the UK’s largest) with 458, and John Lewis 120, we fail to conclude that any ‘Independent kitchen company’ included could account for more than 10 kitchens per company which doesn’t do justice as some first rate independent kitchen companies will likely be lumped together with poor ones.
Nevertheless, here was what Which? found
40% of Which? members surveyed experienced problems with their kitchen after it had been installed, which supports Kitchens Kitchens long held belief that fitting is a big area for improvement in the industry. The most common problems were:
- problems with sinks/taps 9%
- problems with electrical items 8%
- soft closure mechanisms on drawers not working 6%.
Survey respondents with Magnet kitchens were more likely to have experienced a problem than those with kitchens from other brands.
51% of Magnet kitchen owners reported problems, compared with 46% for customers of Homebase and John Lewis, 42% for customers of B&Q, 38% for customers of Wickes, 37% for Ikea customers and 35% for customers of Howden Joinery.
However, a third of all problems were resolved within a week of them being reported to the company, with Howden Joinery responding the quickest, and B&Q taking the most amount of time to resolve the issue.
The Online Consumer Reviews
Ikea has 43.4% of 80+ online users recommend them, although it has to be said that most reviews are either very negative or very positive so read into that what you will?
John Lewis has 16.7% of a small sample size of 6 online users recommend them
Howdens Joinery had over 230 reviews but only 21.9% of users recommend them
Wickes did slightly better than average with 46.7% of 100+ users recommend them
Magnet had 194 reviews and 38.7% of these recommend Magnet
Homebase had from 100 reviews; just 31% of users recommend them
B&Q didn’t have many online reviews specifically about their kitchens
Kitchens Kitchens Advice
A kitchen is, or it should be, an investment, not just in terms of money, but emotionally and if you are a landlord, go to one of the sheds or if you are a property developer approach some contract kitchens firms but as a homeowner, the old adage runs true here in that you get what you pay for.
Whilst Which? have taken the time to poll over 3000 people it has to be acknowledged that for all of the kitchen companies rated, you would likely pay £2000, to £5000 on average for a kitchen and whilst you can get a kitchen for that which maybe satisfactory, that’s all it will be, at best satisfactory.
Big sheds employ sales people (or kitchen consultants) not kitchen designers and they are there to sell, sell, sell. Now this isn’t to say that you should shun the shed and all go to independents because there are some shockers out there, but if you take the time, pay a little be more of a premium, you will get a premium service and Kitchens Kitchens knows of many independents around the UK that do a fantastic job from start to finish.
A Worthy Independent will have first class kitchens in their showrooms, as if they cant get their own displays right, what does it say for your kitchen?
A Worthy Independent will have photos of its jobs, case studies, satisfactions surveys and letters of recommendation from the kitchens they have fitted
A Worthy Independent will let their design skills and passion for kitchens come through and not employ a workforce made entirely of contractors or self employed sales people.
A Worthy Independent will have more than numerous cycles of 12-18 months trading history to its name, as a Kitchen Phoenix is one to avoid*
*The ‘Kitchen Phoenix’ is a firm stuck in the old ways of doing things, pre-internet, where it could get away with poor kitchens and poor service, not care about negative press, and encouraged taking its profit margins higher by not paying suppliers, until the inevitable day it went into liquidation, and then started up again, and again, and again, and again.