As readers of my kitchen and bathroom blog will be aware, I’ve never really understood the love affair these retail industries seem to have with the motor trade.
I’ve lost count of the times a kitchen or bathroom marketing ‘expert’ has told me that they wanted to offer a “Mercedes for a Ford price tag”. This completely overlooks that the person buying the Ford knows they aren’t going to drive out with a Merc whereas, in my opinion, there are too many companies kidding their customers into thinking they are getting a ‘designer’ or (my favourite), ‘hand crafted’ quality product rather than firewood masquerading as a luxury kitchen.
What we need is a more accurate example to explain where your kitchen or bathroom sits in the scheme of things and I give you, ladies and gentlemen, air travel.
If you sell ‘entry level’ kitchens or bathrooms then you are in the Ryanair sector of the market. Nobody buying a ticket on Ryanair is looking for luxury; a bun-fight to get on board and grab a seat perhaps, but not luxury. You can’t adjust the seat when you get one, the leg room is limited, and the in-flight refreshments carry a price-tag too.
But what you do get is a cheap ticket (if you book early enough, forgo extras such as a reserved seating or priority boarding and limit yourself to carry-on luggage), and a very impressive track-record for taking off and landing on time – even if where you land is a coach-ride away from the city you actually want to visit.
If you want a little extra in the way of service, a seat you can adjust with a (bit more) leg room, a more generous luggage allowance and in-flight snacks as part of the package, you will opt for one of the flag carriers such as BA who go to more destinations but change you substantially more for your ticket. These are of course the middle market kitchen and bathroom flyers.
At the bespoke end of the kitchen market – and I mean made to individual order with individual cabinet sizes not mass-produced kitchen units with a choice of handles – you are in private jet territory and possibly the only genuine niche market in either industry.
Ryanair knows what it can do well – short-haul flights where the lack of frills do not put people off travelling with them, especially at the keen headline prices it promotes. It does this well because it has nothing else to offer.
While ‘full-service’ airlines also offer some low-cost travel, the tickets often come with conditions such as restrictions on flight times and luggage limits that can make them a less attractive offer. For example I checked that a flight from Heathrow to Dublin on 18 April with BA was over three times more expensive than a similar timed flight by Ryanair from Stansted to Dublin; a big enough difference to put up with the minor inconvenience of getting out to Stansted from London.
But as with kitchens and bathrooms, its horses for courses; I don’t know of a single traveller that would want to fly long-haul with Ryanair, if such a service was available. And this is the lesson I urge independent kitchen and bathroom retailers to consider. Have a good look at the type of kitchens and bathrooms the superstores are offering so that you can point out the difference between a no-frills offer from them and the full service alternative you offer.
Pick your suppliers with care too. You want the flexibility of a product offer that will enable you to offer more choice to consumers.
Ryanair don’t do long-haul because Ryanair doesn’t want to gear up to offer long-haul. The ‘sheds’ cannot compete with the independent specialist on the breadth of the product offer or on the level of customer service an independent can offer. They too are stuck with their limited product and service option.
You won’t win every order of course. Thousands of satisfied people fly on no-frills airlines as they offer great value for money and have changed the whole ballgame of international travel. Likewise the lower cost kitchen and bathroom offers from the superstores have changed kitchen and bathroom retailing but I suspect that quite a few consumers don’t really want to settle for a no-frills kitchen or bathroom and would ‘upgrade’ to a better solution if it was within their budget.
And if it isn’t within their budget, they were never going to be your customer in the first place.