It’s time for consumers to change their appliances

The focus for the AMDEA initiative, entitled Time to Change is centred around encouraging consumers to replace electrical appliances that are over 8 years old in order to make savings – both in terms of running costs and improvements to energy efficiency, says Guest Blogger Steve Macdonald of Hoover Candy UK.

 

Steve Macdonald
Steve Macdonald, trade marketing director of Hoover Candy UK’s Freestanding Division.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) is also spreading the word about the savings that can be made by upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances. But just how much could be saved? And how do consumers rank energy efficiency on their buying agenda?

The strides manufacturers have made when it comes to improving efficiency across all appliance sectors over the last few years, is certainly significant.

Significant investment

Here at Hoover, we have made a significant investment into the development of more efficient appliances across all sectors. The Hoover Aquavision heat pump tumble dryer for example, is particularly energy-efficient as it allows for hot air recycling, using 40% less energy than conventional condenser dryers.

The revolutionary Hoover All in One washing machine is another great example. This machine safely mixes whites and coloured fabrics together in one wash, whilst employing advanced technology to wash clothes at 20 degrees whilst delivering the performance of a hotter, 40 degree wash.

Hoover-All-in-One
The Hoover All in One washing machine safely mixes whites and coloured fabrics together in one wash.

The EST website includes indicative costs of just how much could be saved; highlighting that investing in an A+ fridge freezer could save around £57 in energy bills over the lifetime of the product. The EST also warns that with energy prices expected to rise over the next few years, the savings to be made are going to be even greater. And consumers are certainly starting to take note…

Buying agenda

We have noticed more and more consumers factoring energy efficiency into their buying agenda. In a recent independent survey**, consumers cited energy efficiency as second only to price when it came to purchasing a dishwasher.

Hoover-Dynamic-Aquavision-with-heat-pump-technology
The Hoover Aquavision heat pump tumble dryer uses 40% less energy than conventional condenser dryers.

One thing is for sure; white goods manufacturers will continue to work towards improving energy efficiency across all product categories.

To find out how much can be saved by replacing old appliances, visit the Time to Change website and use its calculator at www.t2c.org.uk/calculator/

*DECC, Quarterly Energy Prices 2010 Table 5.5.1 Domestic electricity prices in the EU and the G7 countries

**Independent survey of 1000 consumers with dishwashers

Steve Macdonald is the trade marketing director of Hoover Candy UK’s Freestanding Division.

If you have a comment you would like to make about kitchen and bathroom retailing in the independent sector I would LOVE to hear from you! But before you rattle off 5000 words on your pet subject please click here to check out the Guest Blog section. You will save us both a lot of grief – and quite possibly save me a lengthy jail sentence too.

This Guest Blog was also featured on Pro Publishing’s K&B Network website. Pro Publishing is a sponsor of this blog.

Why less will always mean more for the successful independent kitchen specialist

Guest Blogger Bill Miller of KBBG is urging independent kitchen specialists to appreciate the value of the adage, ‘less means more’ when updating their kitchen displays.

Bill Miller
Bill Miller, managing director of KBBG

Very simply customers want to be enthralled and wowed by your kitchen displays not confused. By showing fewer, but larger layouts, you will have more scope to show your design flair and be able to show realistic sized settings, which relate more closely to an actual, real world kitchen. Do not confuse your customers with unnecessary clutter and too much product for the eye to handle.

During my travels around the country, I often come across well-meaning independent retailers who believe that they will secure more sales by showing the widest possible choice of brands, styles, designs and colours, but are in reality not actually specialising in anything other than confusion!

The ‘covering all the bases’ and ‘more is more’ concept sounds so appealing. How can you possibly fail if you display as much product as possible, thereby offering something for everyone? In truth, the confused or underwhelmed customer becomes uncertain and is simply less likely to buy.

Already unsure

Chances are, they are already unsure of what they want when they enter your showroom, but when confronted by a supermarket-style jungle of endless options, the bewilderment escalates.

Today’s customer, visiting an independent kitchen specialist, wants and expects to be excited by the products they see. They need to view product displays that exceed their expectations, feeds their imagination, and builds their desire to be part of the lifestyle on show.

Independents need to be aware that the national retail chains continue to up their game and have huge marketing budgets to attract customers to their outlets. Independents need to differentiate themselves; they have the local expertise and specialise in a way not possible for a national retailer.

Clear message

They need to have a clear, consistent message, which is confident and reassuring, not that of a retailer who is unsure. Each store display needs to be well thought-out, not just in terms of individual presentation, but how it will impact on the showroom as a whole. The very best showrooms take their customers on a journey with each display leading seamlessly to the next.

Never forget that you have a tremendous edge over the multiples in terms of the knowledge and the after-sales service you are able to offer. You are the specialist, so specialise, and convince your customers that what you have on display is the very best they can buy. Too much clutter, and too many displays or choices, will only serve to devalue your brand. One well designed and thought-out kitchen display will have much greater impact, and lead to greater sales, rather than several smaller displays in the same area.

You are not just selling kitchen furniture, you are selling a lifestyle. Do your research thoroughly on your catchment area and your customer profile. Talk to people at length, when they visit your store, and establish their aspirations. Take some time out of the business each month to visit other local retail outlets both national stores and independents.

What works

What lessons can you learn and what works and what doesn’t? Most of us have an instinctive talent for ascertaining other people’s aesthetic tastes and preferences. Use your findings to form a solid, viable and attractive game plan – and then trust it!

You already have a head start with the knowledge that your customers have come to you because they appreciate the quality, service, advice and experience you offer. Do not disappoint them by offering them quantity instead. There is nothing at all wrong in trying to appeal to different customers. But there is a right and wrong way to do it. Less will always means more.

Select your brands and the displays sparingly; make your store layout clean and punchy without being overwhelming. Pre-plan your traffic pattern and create a mood of warmth, quality and space.

Customer impact

Those showrooms, which offer the greatest customer impact, focus as much on creating light airy open spaces within their showroom, as much as the product displays themselves. They recognise the importance of giving their customers the opportunity to stand back and view the products on display from a number of angles, rather than simply seeing space as an opportunity to cram more products on display.

Remember too that even the best showrooms need to be refreshed as customers tastes change. What worked last year may not be so saleable this. Market trends and changes are evolving ever quicker. As a forward thinking independent kitchen furniture retailer, you need to be ahead of the curve, because if you are not, then you are not making the best use of your resource, and almost certainly your competitors will be.

Bill Miller is the managing director of The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group UK (KBBG ). This is a new organisation set up to support the business of the independent kitchen specialist. Part of the DER KREIS kitchen and bathroom buying group, the company has over thirty years’ experience and a turnover in excess of 2.2 billion Euros. Currently operating in nine countries with over 2,700 members, the group provides a range of exclusive tailored benefits and services to support and increase the success of each independent kitchen specialist in an effort to stay ahead of the competition and to promote the success of individual businesses.

If you have a comment you would like to make about kitchen and bathroom retailing in the independent sector I would LOVE to hear from you! But before you rattle off 5000 words on your pet subject please click here to check out the Guest Blog section. You will save us both a lot of grief – and quite possibly me a lengthy jail sentence too.

New designers thinking on kitchens and bathrooms

The cosy and accepted world of kitchens and bathrooms is going to get one heck of a shake-up when the latest crop of new designers start to strut their stuff.

I don’t mean a pseudo shake-up about the new white, this season’s bean to display (oh gimmie a break please!), or the latest pile of consumer garbage about two-kitchen families, but a root-and-branch rethink about what goes into tomorrow’s kitchens and bathrooms.

iota by by Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley
iota by Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley saves space in the bathroom by up to a third when it is folded up and reduces water consumption as a flush of 2.5 litres is sufficient to thoroughly clean the bowl. www.hud.ac.uk

I have seen the future and trust me it is both very exciting and possibly a little scary too, especially if you are an appliance manufacturer. The future or at least the seeds of it, was on display at this year’s New Designers 2014 that took place at the Business Design Centre in London on 2-5 July.

Daniel-Brooks,-Loughborough-University
Nüma is a heatless, energy-efficient indoor clothes dryer designed by Daniel Brooks. A low energy fan at the top pushes air through the column and arms while an ioniser in the base keeps the laundry smelling fresh. www.lboro.ac.uk © New Designers/ James Champion

Products for the kitchen in particular featured strongly this year, and while the emphasis was probably more Joseph & Joseph that Fisher & Paykel, there was one well thought out alternative to an energy-guzzling tumble dryer and an extremely clever alternative to today’s loo that saves both space and water.

In terms of furniture design Bucks New University once again stood out from the crowd as the place to go to see truly wonderful contemporary furniture for the whole home and it was fitting that one of this year’s winners of the many awards presented was won by one of its students.

However, the University of Huddersfield that is home to one of the other products I’ve selected for this review, presented a large cross-section of kitchen accessories.

The final year students at Huddersfield chose their own areas to work in. They first had to identify an area with user problems (perhaps we should all be concerned by the number who picked the kitchen as a problem area), they then had to present a brief that explained the problem and a possible solution, and then finally make a product that provided the solution and solved the problem.

Kit-Shadbolt,-Bucks-New-University
The Ease Trestle by Kit Shadbolt is a work of genius. The trestle designed to put the table top at two height; breakfast bar for casual dining or food prep and formal table height for more formal dining. www.bucks.ac.uk
© New Designers/ James Champion

New Designers would not be the New Designers without one or two ideas that stand even less chance of getting out of the starting blocks than England did of winning the World Cup this year.

But even the daftest at the show would probably get as far as the knockout stages and they were even rarer than England’s goals…

I’ve picked out just four products from a very crowded field to illustrate the main themes of this year’s show but frankly I was spoilt for choice and will feature some of the many other products at New Designers 2014 in future posts.

Personally I think we would be short-sighted in the extreme if we ignore what these talented New Designers are telling us.

Many worked from the premise that interiors are going to get smaller, that the humble table in particular will have to play several roles in the homes of tomorrow to justify the space they take up and that saving water and energy will become main-stream.

Yes, almost without exception, the products I’ve picked here are still short of the features that are going to turn them from a student’s course work into full-on production, but to concentrate on what they may lack is I think to miss the main point of what these new designers are saying: new solutions are what is needed rather than new clothes on old thinking.

Kanak-Jaitli's-Modular-Kitchen
Space-saving kitchens in themselves are not new, but the feature that makes Kanak Jaitli’s Modular Kitchen stand out is the clever way she has provided the maximum amount of working surface. kanakjaitli@gmail.com

Storm in a tweetup over KBB design accreditation

If ever the power and shortcomings of Twitter can be summed up in one string of Tweets it is the flurry (or whatever the collective noun is for a string of comments on Twitter) of Tweets that followed a comment in kbbreview by designer Darren Morgan on “how a lack of controls has led to an industry where designers have a mixed bag of capabilities and qualifications”.

Now I know that for the band of KBB people for whom Twitter is their first and often only means of social media communication to suggest that it has any shortcomings is close to heresy. I can understand its appeal. It is easy to send out a message on Twitter or to respond to one from somebody you follow that grabs your attention. Writing a blog post on the other hand takes more time and attention. And while you can fire off a short message from a smartphone, writing a 400-word piece on a phone would be torturous.

But while Twitter is arguably the most important tool for breaking news to a worldwide audience, it surely sucks as a platform for debate.

Part of the reason is the limit of characters you can use in any one message, but the main reason it falls down in debating circles is that you have to be either following all of the contributors to see to see all of the comments, or the writer has to include your Twitter identity in the message being posted

And thus it was that I was copied into a Tweet from the BKDA when it tweeted a response to Darren’s piece for kbbreview. See if you can follow this ‘debate’; it may help if you read Darren’s piece first.

@bkdainfo: “interesting blog as usual, but clearly not reflective of reality”
@bkdainfo: “the degree can hardly recruit 10 people and sbid accreditation, jury still out”
@bkdainfo: “And form a ” new council” of the same people with same ideas that have gone nowhere , maybe not.”
@dmkitchen: “With an industry so divided only positive communication will deliver agreement”
@dmkitchen: “Jostling for position reinforces status quo.”
@fkbd_garry: “Yes, be positive but change will most likely be consumer led”
@dmkitchen: “Tipping point on design fees required to realise consumer led change.”
@bkdainfo: “and do we believe that the consumer en masse wants to pay a separate design fee ?”
@bkdainfo: “you have your sbid/kbsa/ntg kitchen design accred, majority seem to favour status quo”
@fkbd_garry: “they want 2 pay as little as poss! KBB marketing lowers perception of value in design”
@dmkitchen: “Defeatist and fragmented attitude reinforces status quo.”
@dmkitchen: “To be considered a leader positive change must be promoted”
@dmkitchen: “not condemned!”
@fkbd_garry: “the most inspiring ideas often evolve from a dream….”
@bkdainfo: “idealism vs realism , which one best fits kbb industry?”
@fkbd_garry: “the idealist sees reality, the ideas help evolution & revolution”
@bkdainfo: “will wait patiently for this kbb epiphany or dream inspired revolution…….”
@vanessabrady: “based on research: competition, social financial & political #change”
@bkdainfo: it may prove more difficult to change kbb industry as opposed to interior des ind”

Some of Twitter’s KBB fans say that the main reason they use the platform is because of the large number of users that receive their Tweets and I must admit that my own Twitter feed (@gjmtweets) has more followers than readers who register to read my blog.

But surely the clarity of the whole debate by the few is more important than the ego-tickling of a large number of followers?

If you feel moved to voice an agreement or disagreement with this comment, please use the reply function on my blog rather than posting a response to it on Twitter. I send out a Twitter alert for every reply I publish and I publish every reply I receive that isn’t spam.

Do k&b independents need to review their marketing messages?

The Times on 27 June carried a full page ad from B&Q showing a white kitchen and a huge headline that screamed: ‘We won’t be beaten on price’. Readers were urged to hurry, as the ‘special offer’ of 25% off all Cooke & Lewis kitchen cabinets doors and drawer fronts (I wonder how many people buy the odd drawer front from B&Q?), ends on 3 July.

B&Q advertising in The Times with an ad once more suited to readers of The Sun shows how much the market has changed. Everybody it seems is looking for a deal, and it’s not just the hordes that are (apparently) going past their local Tesco to save a few bob buying the weekly groceries at Aldi or Lidl.

So kitchen and bathroom independents, do you need to review your marketing messages?

I’ll assume you already have a website. Given that an estimated 80% of all kitchen or bathroom sales start with Internet research it is madness not to have the best website you can afford. In addition to presenting examples of the stunning kitchen and bathrooms you design, supply and install (assuming you are a full-service specialist), I believe that one of the best messages many independents can promote is that they WON’T BE BEATEN ON VALUE FOR MONEY.

Superstores such as B&Q will always be able to undercut independents on the price of some kitchen furniture but when it comes to delivering great choice, genuine value for money, and complete kitchens the playing field starts to level out and independents can give the rest of the market a darn good run for its money.

You need to get this message (or something similar) across at every given opportunity and your website is one of the best places to do this as you have, albeit briefly, a captive audience.

I touched on this in an earlier post; ‘Independents – it’s time to put your money where your market is’. It attracted a message via Twitter that one small website could not hope to compete with the £10m B&Q are said to be spending on marketing. But when a consumer is viewing your website they are only seeing your material. And if they read a similar message on other independent retailers’ website, some of the smarter consumers may contact you to ask for a little more detail.

But my Twitter friend did have a point, and you cannot be expected to fight this battle on your own. Every manufacturer who supplies the independent sector has a vested interest in your business. Where are they going to be if IKEA (for example), drives you out of business? Is the Swedish giant suddenly going to broaden its portfolio of kitchen product suppliers? I don’t think so.

Why not ask your suppliers to direct some of their consumer advertising budget, a sizable chunk of which you contribute to every time you buy from them, to the specialist consumer magazines that do not carry ads from superstores or kitchen companies that only supply builders?

It would be worth your while to visit your local newsagents, the ones your customers will probably visit too, and see for yourself how many of the current specialist kitchen and/or bathroom consumer magazines are on the shelves. It would also be worth your while to buy a few of the magazines (it is tax deductible after all), and note how many of them are advertising products you sell.

Judge for yourself if you want your business to be seen in the same company as some of the other firms advertising in the titles and if you don’t, it will at the very least be a great place to start the conversation the next time you speak to your suppliers.

Go on, you can do it.