With delays to appliance orders still frustrating many kitchen retailers, some have begun the hunt for alternative suppliers – Tim Wallace considers the options.
In a pivotal time for the appliance market, many kitchen retailers now face a dilemma. Should they stick with their tried – but no longer so trusted – appliance brands? Or should they look for more reliable but less familiar suppliers, and take on the associated risks? And if so, who?
By now the issues affecting BSH Group and others are well documented. Some dealers have worked round supply issues, but others have lost their patience. Just recently, BSH has also imposed its second price rise of the year, implemented a product rationing system and, like Miele, hinted it had plans to go direct to the consumer. Understandably, it’s left many dealers frustrated – especially when they also often see appliances being sold cheaper online than they can buy them themselves.
Darren Taylor, MD of Winchester-based Searle & Taylor, has always combined major appliance brands with niche alternatives, but says he has never liked quota systems that force him to feature a number of appliances from a single brand to claim a better discount.
“I don’t think this could be enforced when lack of supply means that I am having to use my own display models to fill holes in clients’ kitchens,” he says. “Whilst I try to remain loyal to the major brands, I am now forced to seek alternative options from companies that can and will deliver on time.”
Wayne Dance, owner of North East retailer and distributor In-House agrees: “We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be bullied or exploited by brands,” he says. “Raw materials and microchips are at a ransom price. The situation with lead times is definitely giving other branded appliance manufacturers the opportunity to get into retailers that they haven’t been able to previously.
“Fortunately, we get looked after very well, especially by AEG as we’re one of their biggest accounts. We are also the UK agent for Steel, which is not directly available online.”
Some retailers admit they fear biting the hand that feeds them. However, others are now hunting for credible alternatives – brands that are moving aggressively into the space rather than wavering because of stock issues of their own.
Fisher & Paykel, for example, is set to open a European hub in central London soon and, according to David Woollcott, MD – UK, Ireland & Europe, “performing better than most” in terms of supply.
“Global trends are moving away from run-of-the-mill product and brands,” he says. “Some retailers have put all of their eggs in one basket, and these supply issues highlight the importance of having differentiated products.”
Another option is Euroline, a niche importer of premium Italian brands Barazza, Bozen, Fogherr, Fulgor Milano and Sirius. Since the start of the year the company has had a 95% success rate in delivering products within their required delivery time.
“The big issue for most retailers is that the brands are not household names,” admits UK MD Nigel Jacobs. “My response is that just because the customer does not recognise the brand, it doesn’t mean the product is poor quality. The retailer should look at the resource and history behind the brand. Not only are they all second-generation family businesses but 90% of the products are made in house.
“Retailers need to provide a 3-4 month estimate in advance for potential orders. We are only working with furniture retailers and limiting customers.”
A German brand that has recently entered the UK market is Kaiser and, according to director Niko Skarlatos, its UK warehouse is “well-stocked and can offer support to those projects that may be on-hold.
“We also have thousands of appliances available at Kaiser’s German warehouse that can be delivered to the UK with around two weeks’ notice,” he adds.
Swedish brand ASKO is another recent arrival and has opened a showroom aimed at retailers, while Bora is also said to be maximising the situation via Kent-based distributor Rencraft. So too is Swift, which is about to announce a new partnership with De Dietrich.
Meanwhile, Owain Harrison, country manager with hobs and hoods specialist Novy, says the brand is “obsessively focused” on the kitchen independent channel.
“Unlike larger appliance brands, we act and plan with continued empathy to the needs of our retail partners,” he explains. “Independents are fatigued by the appliance sector in general.”
Küppersbusch UK MD Bodie Kelay says it currently has “reasonably good stock levels across key ranges” and supports its retailer network by operating a robust forward allocation system.
And for a less niche option, Franke has also just re-entered the UK appliance market with the launch of the Mythos appliance family.
Says sales and marketing director Jo Sargent: “We recognise that we have previously launched and withdrawn appliances from the UK market. However, we are in a strong and secure position with our supply chains, have good stockholding and can deliver.”