Showroom manager of Hove Kitchens, Jimmy Duque is a Greek national, so who better to talk to on how to cope with kitchen retailing in a recession
Like all the shops on its parade of converted Georgian buildings, and actually throughout most of the town, Hove Kitchens is compact. But that doesn’t mean it’s not eye-catching. The showroom features six display runs, each positioned against the walls, which ensure most are visible from the high street. Graphical printed glass wall units, a bright orange splashback and the unusual shape of the Shelf cooker hood from Best all help this retailer attract passing trade. Perhaps it’s why showroom manager Jimmy Duque says his trade “is good, actually. It’s surprisingly good. We’re getting a lot of quotes. But let’s see how it carries on after the news we’re in recession again.”
And there we have it, the R-word, the foe of all kitchen (and to that mind bathroom) retailers. But recession is no stranger to Jimmy Duque who is a Greek national and prior to becoming showroom manager at Hove Kitchens worked for his family kitchen business in Greece. “Back in Greece it’s really bad,” says Jimmy. And, having worked in that tough climate, he offers his advice to kitchen retailers on combating downturns in business: “You first need to lower expenses – all of your expenses – you have to reduce them 100% – and [it is about] whoever [can] hold on. That’s the way forwards, to cut your costs and lower your margins, obviously.” He continues: “Basically with less people spending money in the market, what happens is everybody tries to get them. We all turn into sharks, trying to catch the small fish.” .
Customers holding back Although competition can toughen up the market, Jimmy says: “Out of 10 quotes, we still get three to four kitchen sales – at the moment – that’s the ratio.” But he says converting kitchen quotes is made more difficult by customers taking a longer time to make their decision to buy. “We’d like to get more [conversions] but it’s a bit difficult. You find that most of the customers will travel and come in, have look at the quote, think about it and probably come back. They are waiting to see what is going to happen [in the economy], so it’s taking a little bit longer [to complete the selling process].” He continues: “People who we are closing are the ones who can’t do anything about it because they already built the extension or they need to do it, basically. The ones where a brilliant kitchen is an option are the ones who are holding back a little bit.”
Offering a full design, supply and fit service, Hove Kitchens supplies rooms between £10,000 and £20,000. “It could be anywhere in that spread”, says Jimmy adding, “but probably more towards £14,000-15,000 kitchen.” And the business cover a 20-mile radius from Brighton and Hove through across East Sussex to Worthing. To cater for this business, Hove Kitchens operates with two full-time people in the showroom, plus a team of sub-contracted plumbers and installers.
Jimmy points out “for appliances [pricing] is very competitive – the profit margin is quite low.” But, he says most of his kitchens are still supplied with built-in appliances. He does admit “Some of them [kitchen sales] won’t [include appliances] because– if we have an issue it will be some other showrooms will give a deal.” However, he is adamant that online isn’t an issue for appliance sales, as he says customers: “won’t find Siemens cheaper than us. They won’t find Best cheaper than us. We’ve got a good deal with our suppliers and we’re pretty competitive.”
And he also points to exploring new avenues. But rather than looking at bathroom sales, perhaps the expected stablemate of kitchens, he is hoping to attract the attention of local property developers with a range of windows. He is looking to sell tilt and turn windows , which he has stored at the back of the showroom. “It’s about looking at new sales opportunities”, Jimmy says. And with the number of older properties in the local area, and seemingly endless renovations, windows could bolster his kitchen business.
All in all, Jimmy is then still upbeat about his showroom business, stating : “It started quite well, so let’s see how it carries on.”