Award-winning Cornwall-based retailer Now Kitchens has introduced new furniture and appliances to its showroom and partnered with a major KBB marketing agency. Designer Jono Peck tells Tim Wallace why the fresh approach is paying off.
Small tweaks in strategy can give any business a big boost, but Now Kitchens has found success with a much bolder approach. Tired of struggling for margin in the crowded bathroom market, the Cornish retailer abandoned them back in 2015 and switched its entire focus to kitchens. However, as the market tightened, its offer was no longer wide enough to entice the local clientele. So two years ago it also switched furniture supplier and moved to German brand Häcker along with Ashley Ann’s Caledonia range.
“As our designs became more sophisticated, we realised we needed a dedicated, modern, handleless kitchen,” explains design consultant Jono Peck. “So we brought in Häcker and were blown away by it. We were stunned by how much better the Germans do it. The precision of the manufacturing is a massive benefit.”
What also appealed, he says, was that Häcker could offer a lower price point than the retailer could previously access, as well as another at the higher end: “Our pricing spectrum is now much broader than before,” he says. “It’s the same with Ashley Ann so the breadth of our offer has really increased.”
The company has also just introduced Gaggenau’s range of luxury appliances to the showroom in a lucrative extension to its deal with BSH. The move should significantly boost the average order value, which currently stands at £30,000 excluding VAT and installation.
“We’re just putting our new displays in,” Peck says. “It’s a bit scary because Gaggenau is very expensive. They turn down 90% of applicants but we were one of the lucky ones. Delays to appliance orders from BSH have also eased massively.”
Located in Helston, Now Kitchens has a limited but affluent range of potential customers and the switch in brands has apparently helped it offer better quality and service than its local competitors: “If we can deliver 45 kitchens a year it puts us in pretty good shape,” Peck continues. “If people come in with quotes from Wren or the sheds, we’re now in with a shout – despite not really wanting to be in that market. But previously we didn’t have an option for a lower cost utility room, for example; now we do. We also wanted to be nimbler because you don’t know what’s coming down the track.”
Peck began working for Now Kitchens MD Darren Hitchman seven years ago after he was made redundant from a sales role in an unrelated sector. “Darren is originally from the tile business and is an old school friend,” Peck explains. “I hated my job and wanted to do something I really enjoyed. Darren has taught me the design side from scratch and fortunately I’m quite good at it. This job has to be something you have a passion for and it comes through in the designs we do. We really care.”
As if to underline his point, Now Kitchens won the KBBFocus Installed Project of the Year award in 2022. “It’s a lovely kitchen but we couldn’t believe it when we won,” Peck smiles. “We’re in a little bubble down here, but for the company to be validated on a national level was very exciting and gave a us a lot of confidence. It wasn’t about the supplier. It was just good design.”
Target turnover is between £800,000 and £900,000 and business this year has been stable. However, every project is “harder work”, Peck admits, with customers reining in spending and shopping around for the best quote.
“But inflation is coming down and interest rates are stabilising,” he adds. “I’m hopeful that more optimism will soon return to the market.”
Last October, the company made another major strategy change, ditching an underperforming local PR agency and signing an alternative deal with dedicated KBB specialist Flo Marketing: “They understand the business,” Peck explains. “They address any issues we’re having and results have been very good. The number of people coming to us through our website has jumped enormously. We’re on track for a good year and we wouldn’t have been if we hadn’t engaged with Flo. We wrap it all in a package, which also covers Google ads. It’s a significant spend but if you’re getting that back in profit, then it’s worth it.”
The strategy from here, Peck says, is to use Gaggenau to raise the company’s profile and its USPs in partnership with Flo: “It’s ultimately about delivering great projects in great houses for lovely people,” he concludes. “For inspiration we look at things like Houzz and at other studio’s designs. Pinterest is also really good. But it would be great to be able to access more of a community of studios like us. What our previous supplier did really well was have customer forums where retailers would get together and chat to each other. We’re pushing Häcker and Ashely Ann to do it because we learned a lot from other studios. It’s very valuable and quite hard to access. How do you stay current otherwise? We really recognise the importance of fresh inspiration.”