Kitchen specialist Caple is rolling out a nationwide network of showrooms that only supply its own brand of furniture and appliances. Larry Vince, MD of CBD Kitchens in Surrey, tells Tim Wallace the full story.
Q: How did the idea to launch Caple stores come about?
A: Nearly three years ago, I started Caple retail business CBD Kitchens. It continued a long association with the brand through my previous experience with Optiplan. Then at the beginning of the pandemic I spoke with Caple MD Danny Lay and we saw the opportunity to create unique studios that were Caple only. Until now, other manufacturers and showrooms have displayed Caple kitchens and re-badged them with their own brand so it hasn’t been at the forefront of people’s minds.
Q: How did you put the plan into action?
A: We found two key showroom sites to create flagship stores. We worked with the directors of Flowerland Home and Garden in Iver, Surrey, who granted us a prominent position. That gave us access to the local community but also to our London-based clients.
Our second showroom is a corner premises in Frimley high street, again in Surrey, with great access to the M3 and A3. At the back end of 2020 we finally got the lease for the buildings.
Q: Are you planning more stores?
A: Yes, we’re looking at two or three other sites for CBD and will open one more showroom this year, possibly two. In the next three years there’s no reason we can’t be up to 15 showrooms. This will absolutely revolutionise how people perceive Caple. It will remain a unique industry concept but it will only work by growing to a size that Maurice Lay can comfortably support in manufacture. We won’t create artificial expectations. It’s about solid consistency.
Q: How’s business so far?
A: In Q1 we were 30% over target. Even with limited marketing and people not very keen to visit showrooms, we saw immediate success to the point where we doubled the staff levels.
Q: What are your financial targets from here?
A: Our projected turnover is between £2.5m to £3m this year. We’re confident of hitting that.
Q: Are you concerned that the boom might be over?
A: No, Maurice Lay have had their biggest year ever. I see that continuing. Getting products across from Europe is an issue, but people are now aware of what’s made at home and who’s making it, and if they can link that to a one-stop-shop experience that includes appliances they’ve got an umbrella of protection.
Q: So you’re less worried about product delays than most?
A: Yes, it’s a tremendous help that the majority of manufacture is done in the UK. Where BSH have fallen over is in product availability – Maurice Lay have done the opposite. They’ve almost doubled the warehouse size which means the stock holding is 96%. As long as the logistics hold up, everything is coming in within a reasonable time frame. Customers are very understanding and accept the situation.
Q: How much are rising product and raw materials costs impacting?
A: I don’t think they are. Maurice Lay have reluctantly raised prices when required but profiteering is not the way to run a business long term so the increases are very reasonable.
We recently costed a kitchen that the customer had put off for a year and the price has gone up by 7%, the same as inflation. But in the Thatcher era inflation was 17% and we got through that.
Q: How much margin does CBD look for?
A: It’s very dependent on your overheads. If you can control that, you can control profitability. If you’re selling a quality product you deserve a reasonable margin for doing so. Anyone working on a 10% margin would not be making enough money.
Q: What’s been the industry reaction to the idea?
A: Quite a few retailers are approaching us to ask if they can be on board – and they’re being told no. What they can’t do is change their offer overnight. It’s a £100,000 to 150,000 investment.