Haier Europe’s head of kitchen independents & trade distribution Dan Halfpenney talks to Nicola Hanley about the appliance giant’s plans to grow its share of the built-in market, how it respects the retailers it works with, and why they should consider joining 'Club Haier'.
It’s been 12 months since appliance giant Haier entered the UK built-in market with the launch of its Series 6 range at KBB Birmingham and the brand is enjoying its early success. “We created a lot of interest at the show,” says Dan Halfpenney, head of kitchen independents & trade distribution at Haier Europe. “We gained way more display opportunities in the first three months than we ever thought we would and we achieved the target that we set ourselves for year one in the first three months.”
Retailers were already aware of – and interested in – the company, which also owns the Hoover, Candy and Fisher & Paykel brands. “The industry recognised there was momentum around what we were doing,” says Halfpenney.
The timing of the launch also proved fortuitous with other manufacturers struggling with supply chain problems. “I think the wider availability issues maybe opened some old wounds and some people welcomed a new appliance brand. They were ready for someone like Haier with Series 6 to come into the marketplace. They love the look, they liked how we were going to market and our supporting materials around the brand.”
Initially Haier launched its premium built-in Series 6 range with KTS, and has now strengthened its distributor partnerships with the addition of Waterline, which Halfpenney sees as key for his growth strategy. “KTS allowed us to move at speed, which is what we were doing,” he says. “I’m a big fan of distributors because they are very good at what they do and what they do is different from what a manufacturer does. Through their different locations, Waterline allows us to have stock and a delivery possibility to every postcode region. And that for me was really important.”
Confident in the brand’s stock availability and Waterline’s ability to target the right retailers, Haier is looking to have 350 displaying showrooms in the UK by the end of the year. “I’m not looking to flood the market because I want to see things from a distributor’s point of view as well as a manufacturer’s and retailer’s. When a retailer is investing quite heavily in their showroom, I respect that so I don’t want someone round the corner competing with them. And that’s where having a trusting relationship with your distributor comes into play.”
As other brands’ supply chains get back to normal, Halfpenney is conscious that one of the challenges facing Haier will be to retain and continue to grow its retailer base. To try and help with that, it has invested in ‘Club Haier’, a point-based retailer reward programme which is being rolled out this month. “Club Haier is part of the support we’re offering retailers. We’ve already supported a very expensive display deal and put our money where our mouth is in supporting displaying retailers.”
Technology is one of Haier’s USPs, says Halfpenney, and its WiFi-enabled built-in models are proving popular. New, innovative products, including cooling appliances, hoods and a dishwasher are set to launch later this year. “We’re launching a dishwasher with new technology. It is genuinely extremely exciting to see the technology coming through. And it’s quite a benchmark in the industry – if your 60cm fully-integrated dishwasher is industry-leading, people are talking about you so that is very exciting and that will be here in July.”
A dishdrawer is also set to join the Series 6 range later this year. “People in the industry will work out the connection on how we’re getting a dishdrawer,” says Halfpenney. “But we’re not looking to flood the market with loads of models.”
Halfpenney feels the compact nature of the Series 6 range is working in Haier’s favour and is “refreshing” for distributors, retailers and consumers. “Consumers don’t want 20 ovens to choose from. And I can’t expect a distributor to put hundreds of different models on a shelf and stock in-depth. We need the range to be balanced.”
Earlier this year, the Chinese-based Haier group was ranked number one in the global major domestic appliance market by Euromonitor International for the 14th consecutive year. For Halfpenney, replicating that success in the built-in sector in the UK is his top priority. “The ultimate target in the UK is to be the number one player in the built-in market,” he says. "People get into the habit of selling or installing a particular oven or dishwasher and we need to break those habits and grow the display base.”