TALKING SHOP: Read between the onlines

Robert Downes e-commerce

Russell Buckley, owner of Stuart Henry Kitchens, says high street retailers can benefit from the likes of Victoria Plumb's national advertising

Victoria Plumb has set tongues wagging within the industry with its TV advert depicting a “salesman” in the bath with a Victoria Plumb customer and the tag line “Quality bathrooms not costly showrooms”. Then to add insult to injury, it is actively encouraging consumers to go “showrooming” i.e. go to showrooms, touch, feel, get advice and then go online and buy from Victoria Plumb.

I am not a bathroom retailer but I have designed and sold bathrooms for many years. This could, just as easily, be an online kitchen or bedroom company telling consumers to do the same.

Firstly you have to take your hat off to Victoria Plumb for coming up with the ad because it has pointed out the assumption “costly high street showrooms” have “salesmen” sitting there, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting consumer. And we have to ask ourselves the question, is that how the consumer sees us as a whole, or are they only talking about the multiples and sheds?

The majority of independent studios offer far more than a cube (pottery pack) with some taps and a bath to stick in the corner. We offer advice, high end design and interior design services. There will be an actual person to talk to who will have a helpful opinion choosing styles, colours. Also of course should you ever have an issue you can talk face to face rather than by phone or email.

The other considerations, here, are the logistics of delivering bathrooms to a customer’s home, complete and un-damaged. I know that an independent studio would make sure all is well before delivery, thus preventing installation delays.

 

Combating online advertising

Do we need to combat Victoria Plumb’s online presence with anything and if so how? Why not look at it as free advertising because most people don’t buy from the first place they view, so by the likes of Victoria Plumb spending millions on TV ads means consumers could come into your studio where you have the opportunity to combat them. You can visit the “Review Centre” website and print off the list of bad customer service reports or even show them in your studio. The @VictoriaPlumb Twitter account lists customer service issues. This has worked for me lots of times with a certain kitchen company. If you wanted to go further do not give away your designs. I don’t. I charge if the design is required before the order, and most people, when I explain, understand my point of view.

No matter how upset, angry or disheartened we feel about online companies telling consumers showrooms are “too dear”, we have to accept that they are not going away and that we can do it better. The future of the high street is in our own hands and it is up to us to make sure we have a future.

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