[intro]Wayne Dance, managing director at InHouse Inspired Room Design tells us why he believes that manufacturers who sell through independent retailers should take a brand-led approach to their products[/intro]

I was delighted to read Russell Buckley’s letter ‘Why DIY outlets are selling shed loads of kitchens and bathrooms’ (kbbreview, December, pg23) and have circulated it around all our sales force and retailers. It chimes totally with our own belief that manufacturers who sell through independent retailers need to take a brand-led approach to their products.

InHouse directors Stuart Dance and Malo Tasle presented on this topic at the excellent kbbreview conference. According to industry research, the average spend on a kitchen from a shed is £8,000 and they account for £878 million of sales from a total of £1.24 billion in 2012. Like it or not, they are our competition.

At the kbb Birmingham 2014 show, we launched our brand strategy for Schüller in the UK. It includes brand advertising campaigns in the national consumer magazines – and yes, as Russell suggests, we take out double-page spread adverts in consumer magazines that list ‘your local kitchen retailer’ in the ad.

But it must go deeper than this. The concept is simple. The kitchen manufacturer undertakes the national brand advertising and editorial promotion. However, unless the branding is replicated by every retailer, we lose out big time. National advertising, social media and everything else works on the simple premise – a consumer has to recognise and recall the brand when they’re flicking through their local newspaper or walking down their local high street. They have to remember it just at the point when they’re ready to buy. That’s why our branding strategy includes point-of-sale materials for retailers to encourage people to enter the showroom, reassure them at point of purchase and help cement the all-important referrals and recommendations.

If you look at your local jewellers or car retailer, showrooms proudly display the Rolex or Audi brand. It enhances their reputation. It gives the consumer confidence that they’re dealing with a respectable business. It creates and generates sales. It really frustrates me when I hear that retailers think that promoting manufacturers’ will “dilute their own brand”. Few independents have the money or the clout to create a brand – at least not nationally.

We totally respect that our retailers have worked hard to build up and create their own identity and reputation at a local or regional basis. Just as Stuart Henry Kitchens has. What’s interesting to note is that on Russell’s own website, not one kitchen manufacturer is identified. So, if the kitchen manufacturer works hard to create a recognisable identity and reputation, a consumer would have no idea from the website shop window that Stuart Henry represents these brands. I’m not knocking Russell. He’s created a great award-winning business but it does point to the heart of the problem.

Independent retailers need to get on board with manufacturers. They need to recognise and apply a supplier’s branding and point of sale in their own premises. They need to be proud of who they represent and work together – with the manufacturer and other local retailers – to create a brand.

With the combined spend of Schüller’s 200 retailers, plus our tens of thousands of pounds’ investment in the brand advertising and promotion, then the independent network would be a real force to be reckoned with. And that’s when we’d all start to make even more money and sell ‘shed loads of kitchens’ – rather than letting DIY outlets, home stores or builders merchants walk away with the deal.

Taken from Kbb Review, 21st January 2015