Jaime Wright and John Davies talk to Nicola Hanley about how Smeg UK is focussing on its cooking appliances and offering retailers something that little bit different.
There isn’t much about Smeg UK and its products that Jaime Wright, the brand’s national account manager, doesn’t know. One of its longest-standing employees, she’s worked for the company for the last 22 years, joining straight out of school and gaining experience in a variety of areas from customer service, sales support, contracts and forecasting.
“I started in customer service,” remembers Wright. "It was a real baptism of fire spending time in after sales and learning everything from a service and support perspective, I found out the ins and outs of how the appliances work, whilst at the same time finding out what our customers really want and expect from their appliances. It made me appreciate the quality of what we work with because when you’re dealing with one of the most difficult areas of a business, which is where things go wrong, you realise how good the brand you work for is in the way they deal with things, their service and their ethos.”
In her current role as national account manager, Wright looks after national kitchen studio accounts, managing the independent kitchen studio team, and works closely with Häfele, Smeg UK’s exclusive distributor for the kitchen studio channel. “The company’s focus has not shifted but intensified on the kitchen studio business,” she says.
In 2021 the brand launched its Premio Partner scheme, which offers retailers that sell fitted kitchen furniture an enhanced level of support and exclusive benefits. “The response to our Premio Partner scheme has been really positive,” says Wright. “We can’t deny there are some strong competitors that dominate the market. They have their approach and it doesn’t suit everyone and that’s where we can come in and support studios with a unique product offer from Smeg. We’re looking for those retailers that want to take the time to find something different and want to work in partnership with the brand."
“Retailers have an appetite to work with partners that value their business and we’ve taken an awful lot of time to create this package of products that gives them something different to what the sheds are offering. They are reliable, quality products, manufactured with the consumer in mind, with good warranties. And we offer excellent margins so we’re delivering something that can make retailers money.”
John Davies, head of marketing at Smeg UK, agrees. "We often surprise people with the breadth of our range but we can give people real choice. Smeg is a brand people aspire to and it’s a brand that puts a smile on peoples’ faces. We see it time and time again. People love to buy into the Smeg brand for how it makes them feel and there is that wow factor. And for us it really comes down from the top because Vittorio (Bertazzoni) is so involved in the day-to-day at Smeg and what his appliances are delivering to the market. So it’s an inspirational brand from top to bottom and that’s where we get inspiration from.”
The breadth of Smeg’s range, which includes built-in as well as freestanding solutions, is a real plus. “As a designer, you can create something unique with Smeg,” continues Wright. But while Smeg is well-known for its range cookers, one of the brand’s challenges has been raising awareness of its other cooking appliances. “We have a massive portfolio of built-in cooking appliances. We’re really working hard to promote Smeg as a cooking brand so the benefits will be felt across the sector,” says Davies.
The company works closely with its home economists and creates a lot of video content that highlights the USPs of Smeg’s cooking appliances. “We’re educating consumers on what is possible and what they will benefit from with little bits of information. So we do a lot of pieces on why consumers should choose Smeg and the benefits of products like OmniChef,” says Wright. “And we’re in the process of getting simpler marketing aids to put onto products so it can take the consumer straight to that video to help support the retailer in-store. We’re looking at smart marketing POS that doesn’t detract from the overall look of displays. It has to be a support but it has to be subtle. So we’re working very closely with the marketing team to create that content.
"We also have a kitchen studio hub where a retailer can access all the information they need on products, availability, warranties etc. It’s effectively a business support development manager in their showroom. It’s all about creating that overall package as a partnership for the studio to manage their account and help them be confident in talking about our appliances.”