Paul Wheeler is the Sales Director for MHK UK, a cooperative of specialist kitchen retail businesses in the United Kingdom.
Are you a kitchen specialist who is in danger of becoming a kitchen generalist?
Kitchens are becoming ever more complex things, driven by an exploding choice in terms of cabinetry, appliances, sinks, taps, solid surfaces and lighting options.
I meet many retailers, who when faced with customer enquiries for various new products, add those products and ranges to their offering. This is often with the short-term aim of meeting a customer request and gaining a sale. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well the answer isn't that straight forward.
It is necessary to add new products to your offering from time to time and regularly review what you offer to make sure that you are meeting changing customer demands. But these decisions must be based on profound analysis and a clear strategy rather than a spontaneous reaction
I have seen many showrooms that fall into this trap, sometimes offering 2 furniture brands that are at a similar price point, but where 80% of the product offering is duplicated in each range, confusing their customers, staff and also undermining their value as a retailer to the suppliers of those products. The other scenario is where a retailer has products that span too broad a range of price points, with the result that customers on a budget feel a showroom may be too expensive. Simultaneously, the same thing is putting off discerning customers with larger budgets as they view the environment the product is displayed in as not exclusive enough.
This is why it is important to define what you market segments are, who your customer is and then use this as the basis on which to select products that you will invest in, in terms of displays, knowledge, training and supplier loyalty.
It may be painful to lose a customer that wanted to buy something you don’t sell, but in reality, this was never your customer anyway. The payback is that by focusing on a particular customer type, specification and price band, and projecting a clear message to your customers of what you do, two new customers will replace the one that was lost; attracted by the investment and in depth knowledge a focused supply base will give you.
Many suppliers have known this for a long time, and the best suppliers invest in the retailers that invest in them. Once you have formed that relationship with a supplier, you and that relationship become important, and something to be protected and nurtured.
At MHK, we are a full-service organisation for specialist kitchen retailers, so part of our everyday job is to provide a framework of suppliers and price points that our members work with. We always encourage retailers to have a two or three-rung offering of good/better and/or best when selecting products or suppliers, but also to choose suppliers with a firm eye on who their customer is and what direction they want to take their business in - it pays to specialise.