Interview: ASKO UK’s Michael Hardwick – We’re on a drive of momentum

InterviewFeatures Thu 29th Feb 2024 by Nicola Hanley

Interview: ASKO UK’s Michael Hardwick – We’re on a drive of momentum

Interview: ASKO UK’s Michael Hardwick – We’re on a drive of momentum

Feature by Nicola Hanley | Thu 29th Feb 2024

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

As ASKO UK prepares to make its mark at KBB Birmingham 2024, Nicola Hanley talks to business director Michael Hardwick about why the trade show is such an important platform for the Scandinavian appliance brand.

When Michael Hardwick joined ASKO UK as head of sales last March, one of the main things on the premium Scandinavian appliance manufacturer’s agenda was KBB Birmingham 2024. Although ASKO UK officially re-entered the UK market in 2021 and showcased some appliances on KH System Mobel’s stand at the 2022 event, Hardwick sees this year’s trade show as the ultimate launchpad for the brand.   

ASKO’s 3,000sq ft showroom in Stoke-on-Trent opened in 2022

“KBB Birmingham is a really important launch platform for us, as it has been for so many brands. I worked for Fisher & Paykel previously and it was equally important for them,” says Hardwick, who was promoted to business director in January. “For most of the kitchen retail partners that we’ll see at the show, we will be a new brand to them. So the goal for us is to come away from the show with a broad network of really great, engaged kitchen retail partners that are wanting to work with quite a new, and slightly different brand to the marketplace.

“We’re very big in our home markets and in Australia and China and it’s now about pushing the UK and mainland western Europe. I’m confident that out attendance at KBB Birmingham will give people confidence that we’re here, we’re committed and we can show ourselves to be a credible, trusted partner.”

The Craft 5-in-1 Compact Oven is designed to offer full flexibility for any kind of cooking with full steam, microwave, traditional oven, combination steam/oven and combination microwave/oven

Founded in Sweden in 1950, ASKO, which was previously available in the UK around 20 years ago, was acquired by Slovenian Gorenje Group in 2010 and has been owned by Chinese company Hisense since 2018. “There’s a real commitment to the UK market,” Hardwick continues. “Hisense sees the UK as a very important part of the European and global development of the ASKO brand so there’s a real passion and enthusiasm in terms of building it in the right way and investment is there from the global team.”

Having spent a 6-figure sum on a ‘temporary’ showroom in Stoke-on-Trent, which opened in 2022, ASKO also has its sights set on opening an Experience Centre in the UK. “The KBB Birmingham show is the current focus but as soon as we get past that, we’ll start looking at an Experience Centre in the UK and realistically we’ll target London. Globally the brand is very good at establishing great new Experience Centres. The most recent one was in China but they have them in America, Australia, Sweden and Holland. So we’re really looking forward to seeing that come to fruition,” says Hardwick.

Designed to last for 20 years, the fully integrated DW60 dishwasher is created with 8 Steel, with many internal components made from stainless steel rather than plastic

Currently the brand has around 50 displaying partners and is working closely with buying group MHK, Euronics, Kutchenhaus and the KBSA. “The growth we saw last year from a sales revenue perspective was around 275%. Obviously that was starting from a reasonably small base but it shows we’re on this drive of momentum, we’re engaging with the right people who are looking for something a little bit different,” he says.

“We’ve got a great clarity of vision as to what we want to do to become a brand leader in the kitchens channel and establish ourselves as a trusted and credible partner while working with the best electrical retailers as well.”

ASKO’s Style range provides consumers with a full laundry solution. Here its washing machine  and tumble dryer is teamed with a drying cabinet, which has 16 metres of hanging space

Hardwick believes that being a new brand in the marketplace puts ASKO UK in something of a unique position to support retailers in a way that perhaps more established brands can’t. “Due to our infancy we can really take the time to listen and understand what retailers need from suppliers in order to survive and we can really flex and adapt in order to be agile. We recognise that if we’re asking retailers to move away from established brands we want to give them the confidence that we can support them. Things like terms structures, display requirements, growth expectations and marketing support are all areas where traditionally a lot of brands are fairly structured and have set expectations. But we can be very supportive and flexible because we’re not bound by history or broader terms agreements. We can work in an independent way with each retailer to come up with something supportive for them.”

The WCN311942G Wine Climate Cabinet was the recipient of an iF Gold Award 2021

Despite its ambitions to become a market-leading brand, establishing the company in a way that is sustainable is of great importance to ASKO UK. “Sustainability is part of the DNA of the ASKO brand globally,” says Hardwick. “We talk a lot about our connection to the environment and connection to nature through the Scandinavian way as we refer to it and we talk a lot about longevity. We’re on a constant and evolving journey of sustainability and we’re holding ourselves accountable as a brand to be constantly innovating and delivering solutions that bring us back to our brand promise to care about health, wellbeing, equality and sustainability.”

Tags: interview, features, michael hardwick, asko, appliances

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