Interview: John Lindsey of Audus Kitchens on opening a flagship store

InterviewFeatures Thu 14th Mar 2024 by Tim Wallace

Interview: John Lindsey of Audus Kitchens on opening a flagship store

Interview: John Lindsey of Audus Kitchens on opening a flagship store

Feature by Tim Wallace | Thu 14th Mar 2024

Tim entered the KBB world in 2004 with industry title kbbreview. He was appointed editor in 2011 before leaving to go freelance in 2019. In 2016, Tim was named Best Trade Journalist of the year at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association Media Awards. More

Nobilia and Omega specialist Audus Kitchens has opened a new flagship showroom on the Lavershot Barns retail estate in Windlesham, Surrey. Co-owner John Lindsey tells Tim Wallace the full story.

Q: What’s the background to the business?
A: We now have 3 kitchen showrooms. I launched the first one with my business partner, Graham Audus, in Wokingham in 2009. We then opened a store in St Albans 10 years ago and we’ve just launched another at Lavershot Barns in Windlesham. It was an old Optiplan showroom and the opportunity and location was too good to turn down. We’ve made it a flagship store and it’s filled a gap for us in a great area with Sunningdale and Ascot just down the road. It’s also a good showroom to bring our developer customers to.

Q: What’s your business model?
A: Two thirds is retail and the rest is contracts. We’re from a contract kitchen background originally. I was working for Moores back then and Graham had a kitchen fitting business. When we got together we continued to run that and then opened our first showroom and got into retail. But we had contacts in the developer world so we’ve decided to grow that side. We want to get to a 50/50 split.

Q: Which brands do you offer?
A: Our main supplier has always been Nobilia, which is well priced. We were one of the first Nobilia retail showrooms in the country. We also work with Omega – the modern Shaker kitchen has taken off again over the last couple of years. Designs are 50/50 now between Nobilia and Omega whereas we used to be 90% German. We also do a bit of Ashley Ann and Brigitte, and on the appliance side it’s mainly BSH with Bosch more for contracts.

Q: Tell us more about the location of the new showroom…
A: Lavershot Barns is a luxury home, lifestyle, garden, dining and retail estate. It’s become a bit of a destination for the home. We’ve already struck a deal with a flooring company on the same site to get some business together. We’ve also recruited 2 fantastic people to run the showroom. One is an interior designer who has now come on full time. The other is a lady from Taylor Wimpey who we’ve taken on as our business development manager.

Q: What was the thinking behind the design of the store?
A: It’s in a very old building and we’ve taken the walls out and got nice displays in individual rooms. We’ve also got a Nobilia contract kitchen in there but the front two are real show stoppers. One is a big modern Nobilia display and the other is a big traditional Shaker. We’ve got some nice flooring and introduced Acupanels – a fluted look which is really in at the moment.

Q: How easy was it to set the showroom up from scratch?
A: We work with marketing company Inspire KBB. We have a good website and good social media. We did quite well out of being an early adopter of that. This industry was very old fashioned whereas we were advertising on Google, Yahoo and Facebook when a lot of people were still just putting an ad in the paper. And we were getting photos of real kitchens and real projects and putting them on our website.

Q: How’s business across the 3 stores?
A: It’s been a bit of a slow start after a busy 2023. But we’ve got a couple of good tenders for contracts we’re working on so we’re quite confident going forward. The business is turning over about £4m. The St Albans showroom compared with Wokingham is much busier in terms of turnover and value. It’s a bit of an affluent bubble around there.

Q: What are your financial targets for the new store?
A: We’re targeting a million extra this year from the Windlesham showroom. We want to be at £5m turnover in 18 months. We’re not looking for massive growth after that. If we can get up to £7m-£8m in the next 5 years that would be a big success.

Q: How much are you having to raise prices?
A: The logistics side, fuel and transport, has had to go up. We hadn’t put our delivery charges up for about 4 or 5 years. We’ve also revisited our installation prices. Part of our success is that we employ fitters. I look at some of the bigger companies who still have subcontracted installers and I don’t understand how they operate.

Q: What kind of profit should a good retail business be looking for?
A: If you’re achieving 35% - 40% gross profit the business is running really well. To me 35% gross and 10% net is the Holy Grail. We’re looking to streamline things and do fewer kitchens. It’s knowing when to walk away from deals when you have lots of competition.

Q: What’s the longer-term plan?
A: We’re currently promoting internally and creating a managing director for the company. We’ll still be the joint owners and directors but the MD will oversee the day-to-day running. We want to guide the business more from the side with marketing and strategic growth rather than getting bogged down on the day-to-day stuff. What we really want is a well-run company that makes a good profit. Then me and Graham will be hitting the age where we’ll be playing more golf!

Main image top: John Lindsey, right, with Graham Audus, left.
Other images: Audus Kitchens' Windlesham showroom.

Tags: interview, features, audus kitchens, john lindsey, kitchens

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