Interview: Stuart Wilson on building appliance brand ASKO in the UK

InterviewFeatures Mon 1st Aug 2022 by Nicola Hanley

Interview: Stuart Wilson on building appliance brand ASKO in the UK

Interview: Stuart Wilson on building appliance brand ASKO in the UK

Feature by Nicola Hanley | Mon 1st Aug 2022

Nicola is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about interiors for 15 years. A former editor of Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine, she has also worked in PR and is now a freelance writer specialising in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. More

A year after entering the UK market, ASKO’s national account manager talks to Nicola Hanley about what sets the Scandinavian appliance brand apart and why its new Stoke-on-Trent showroom is just the start.

A global pandemic might not seem like the most opportune moment to launch a new brand into a competitive marketplace, but it didn’t stop premium Scandinavian appliance manufacturer ASKO from entering the UK market last year. “Is there ever a good time to launch a brand?! There was never a time that was going to be perfect,” says Stuart Wilson, ASKO’s national account manager. “You just have to run with it. The most important thing is to have a strategy in place.” 

In some respects, the challenging climate has actually worked in ASKO’s favour. “Some manufacturers have had difficulties themselves and it’s made some retailers consider alternative brands, which they may not have done previously,” says Wilson, who worked for the BSH Group for 20 years. 

Opened this spring, ASKO’s new 3,000sq ft showroom in Stoke-on-Trent houses over 50 appliances, including its innovative Drying Cabinets and award-winning WCN311942G_UK three-zone wine climate cabinet

This isn’t the first time, however, that ASKO has been in the UK. “ASKO was around about 15-20 years ago but they weren’t under the group of Hisense and Gorenje then,” says Wilson. In 2010, ASKO, which was founded in Vara, Sweden in 1950, was acquired by Slovenian Gorenje Group, which became part of Chinese company Hisense in 2018. “I’ve been really pleased that retailers and customers have good opinions of ASKO from back in those days and they remember the products as high quality.”

Built-in cooking appliances from ASKO’s new Craft range on display within the UK showroom in Stoke-on-Trent

When ASKO, which was already popular around Europe and in Australia, initially re-entered the UK market last year, products were distributed exclusively through KitchenEx. Wilson explains how their help was invaluable. “They gave us a fantastic start while we were setting up and didn’t have all of our ducks in a row,” he says. “It allowed us to get more established internally so we could back everything up and now we’re at that stage, circumstances have changed. KitchenEx decided they wanted to concentrate on their Faber and Ilve business and we have more logistics in place now with engineers ready so we can go direct to retailers.” 

Seen here in black steel, the new built-in Craft range is complemented by the co-ordinating wine centre, which can be freestanding or built-in

So where does Wilson see ASKO sitting in the UK? “If you take Electrolux, AEG and Siemens, we’d be above them at a price point but below Miele. We feel there’s a little pocket there for us to get ourselves established in. We will overlap with some of those brands a little bit and they will be ones we have to compete against. Obviously they have fantastic brand recognition and that’s something we have to build up. ASKO is not intended to be completely mass market and available here, there and everywhere. It’s a unique offering and our products have quite a few USPs that others don’t have.”

From ASKO’s Craft range, the compact OCSM8487B has a dark grey brushed stainless steel finish and a generous 50-litre capacity

Unique selling points, says Wilson, include the Quattro suspension system for its freestanding washing machines, designed to reduce vibration, even at 1800rpm, and a Steel Seal as opposed to a rubber door seal, for a more hygienic wash. “With our built-in range, our black steel single ovens and compact appliances have a one-piece steel frame, which is synonymous with our laundry products,” he says. "To my knowledge nobody else has that one-piece steel frame all the way round and it’s all black steel.”

As well as washing machines and tumble dryers, ASKO’s laundry portfolio also includes drying cabinets, which Wilson says are perfect for the unpredictable UK climate and are already proving very popular. “We’ve also got coffee machines, hobs, extractors, built-in refrigeration, dishwashers and luxury wine climate cabinets. Our WCN311942G_UK three-zone wine climate cabinet recently won an iF Gold Award and was named the best wine cooler for wine collectors by Good Housekeeping.” New products are planned for the UK at the end of the year, subject to retailer feedback, and include Celsius Cooking, an award-winning range of smart induction hobs.   

Elements by ASKO ovens are operated by touch controls based on a TFT touchscreen with the most commonly used functions immediately accessible

Available appliances are on display at ASKO’s 3,000sq ft showroom showroom in Stoke-on-Trent, which opened earlier this year. “It’s a temporary showroom but we still spent six figures on it and it cost us a lot of money. But we felt it was important for ASKO to have a presence where retailers and even some consumers can see the product and touch and feel it,” explains Wilson. “When the time is right, we’d like to have a larger showroom, maybe in London or Leeds, where we can demonstrate products live. But the timing has to be right and we need to be more established. We don’t want to run before we can walk.”

The 90cm HIG1995AB ASKO Duo Fusion hob combines induction with a Fusion Volcano Wok burner. Also pictured is the HG1145AB black ceramic glass gas hob

Tags: interview, features, asko, stuart wilson, hisense

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