Following a fire which destroyed the Coolelectric premises, MD Mark Bristow explains how he got the Liebherr brand back on its feet
While, for many, the start of a New Year can offers the opportunity of a clean slate – for the partner of the Liebherr brand in the UK, Coolelectric, it could have been wiped out. In January, its leased 45,000sq ft warehouse and offices were razed to the ground, destroying not only the building but all its stock. Yet within hours, managing director Mark Bristow, helped instigate the company’s disaster recovery plan, found temporary warehouses and an office, and now the company is trading at the same levels as before the fire.
Bristow explains: “While it was obviously a huge shock to us all that this accident happened, by the time the fire brigade had turned up, we had outsourced the warehouse and taken temporary offices in [sister company] Waterline’s building, which was behind us. Other than standing there and watching it burn, all we could do was think about what do we do next from that point onwards.” Bristow puts the survival of the Liebherr brand in the UK firmly down to a team effort, which reaches beyond Coolelectric. In fact he comments: “It’s more than a team effort. It’s actually, Liebherr through to Waterline, [parent company] Crown Imperial, Coolelectric and right through to the trade, we’ve all been involved in making sure that Liebherr is back on its feet as a brand in the UK.”
And the company showed the Liebherr brand has not only survived but was still successfully trading, with its appearance at kbbBirmingham. Bristow continues: “One of the reasons we were at kbb was as a way of saying to the trade – whether kitchen retailers or even other suppliers was ‘look we’re still in business and thank you for the support you’ve given us a brand and your patience.’” Although he says the objective wasn’t to go out and sell at kbb, the company took a larger stand than usual not only to demonstrate its staying power, but to showcase the majority of its latest product launches. Bristow explains Coolelectric chose to show its appliances at price points right across the board and says Liebherr can compete with most German brands (from £299 to £4000). He explains the show helped demonstrate market gaps “where perhaps people had not considered us and that was a success for us.”
And it showcased its very latest line-up of appliances, as they were brought across from Germany early, since all the older stock had been destroyed. Liebherr introduced a variety of integrated freezing and refrigeration appliances, including a handleless built-in wine cabinet, with a TipOpen system. “I think it will be probably the thing that most people focus on because it’s such a desirable appliance”, agrees Bristow. However in terms of success going forward in sales the volume winners “will probably be smaller freestanding freezers, and we very quietly go about pushing those into the market place”, says Bristow.
And Bristow is undoubtedly positive about the future of the Liebherr brand in the UK and is looking to even better the business. “We’re going to concentrate on making sure customer services are robust and delivered in the way they were pre-fire or better than that.”
The full article appeared in the May issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News