ASKO | “It’s about getting people to break habits”

National account manager of ASKO Stuart Wilson explains the strategy behind the Scandinavian appliance brand’s return to the UK

02 Aug, 22

National account manager of ASKO Stuart Wilson explains the strategy behind the Scandinavian appliance brand’s return to the UK

ASKO | "It's about getting people to break habits"

Following its reintroduction into the UK, Scandinavian appliance manufacturer Asko has invested a six-figure sum into a trade showroom.

Based in Stoke-on-Trent, the 3,000sqft showroom is home to more than 50 of its luxury appliances, spanning built-in cooking, wine cabinets and laundry products.

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Now, the company has plans to increase its sales by growing its network of independent retailers, using its trade showroom as a display and training centre.

Safe return

Founded over 70 years’ ago in Sweden, when a young farmer built a washing machine for his mother, Asko was acquired by Slovenian appliance manufacturer Gorenje in 2010.

Now, it is owned by the Hisense Group, which bought Gorenje in 2018, and ASKO exports to the Nordics, USA, Australia, plus 50 other markets worldwide.

National account manager of ASKO Stuart Wilson recognises the company withdrew from the UK around 20 years ago, but is keen to reassure retailers of the intent of its new owners Hisense Group: “ASKO is not a standalone brand. It’s backed up by a major global company in the Hisense Group. So it should give retailers a lot of confidence.”

And he says, following the launch of its website, the company has already had customers welcoming the return of the brand: “We’ve had a number of customers contact us and say ‘we’ve got an ASKO washing machine from 15 or 20 years’ ago, it’s still working but I need this part or it’s coming to the end of its life, can I get another one?’

“It’s great to hear because you know the product’s lasted that long, they’re really pleased with it and they want another one.”

Supply advantage

But Stuart Wilson is under no illusion about the task ahead of breaking into the UK against established appliance brands.

Originally reintroduced to the UK by KitchenEx, the distributor chose to concentrate on its Ilve and Faber brands and ASKO has chosen to sell direct to retail.

“To introduce a new brand is quite tough because there’s many brands in the industry and in kitchen retail you often only have two or three appliance brands in a showroom. It’s about getting people to break their habits”, he explains.

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And he believes the current supply chain issues are advantageous: “What’s been in our favour is there has been disruption in the industry, which has helped retailers think about their options.” Asko has a range of 56 appliances, all stocked in the UK, and delivery is within 3-5 working days.

But Wilson believes this opportunity will also bring a challenge to keep the momentum of sales, as he adds: “There’s opportunities in the market right now, where not every manufacturer can supply. But we’ve got to follow that up and make sure ASKO’s not just a temporary solution and retailers continue to sell the brand.”

Retail network

ASKO is also seeking to increase its current network of independent retailers and Wilson explains why they are pivotal to sales success: “I believe independents give a very high level of customer service because they understand and get behind each brand they use.

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“That’s where we want ASKO to be because we know they will protect the image and reputation of the brand.”

And he says key to this will be displaying retailers, as he adds: “What the brand is about is displaying the product, letting the consumer touch the product to understand it and then the sales will come on from there”, explains Wilson.

He states displaying retailers will have preferential terms, adding: “We are only asking for one category to be displayed, first of all, and then within six months to add other categories to the portfolio.

“We want the brand to work for them, as much as vice versa.”

And Wilson believes the need to show and educate the consumer about the brand means it’s unlikely for margin to be eroded by online sales. “I don’t believe customers will go online and buy ASKO because I feel the consumers will want to touch and feel the appliances and you will only get that by going into a showroom.”

Having 24 displaying retailers already in the UK, what is the target for ASKO? Wilson adds: “There isn’t a set number of retailers we want to achieve. It’s about growing the brand at a pace we can control.”

Supporting retail

Wilson believes ASKO offers something “just that little bit different to the norm”, such as appliances offered in a full Black Steel finish.

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At Eurocucina, it introduced the Elements touch screen oven in a Grey Pearl finish as an addition to Black Pearl glass and vented tower hob.

But it is also creating its UK portfolio with kitchen retailers, as Wilson explains: “We had a customer who said we sell a lot of flush fitted hobs, do you do that? We have them within ASKO but not in the UK, however I said ‘If that is what you want and you can tell me you’re going to sell them I’ll arrange for it to happen.’ So we are flexible in adapting the range to what retailers would like to see.”

And ASKO is supporting its retailers by boosting consumer awareness through social media and future planned activity at consumer shows.

In addition, the company is also to provide images and videos to tell the story of the brand, as well as training instore, at its new showroom or even remotely through Teams.

To back all that up for retailers and consumers, every ASKO appliance comes with a five-year guarantee.

Brand ambition

And what is the ambition for the brand? “We want it to be a recognised, household brand that consumers recognise and understand its quality,” says Wilson.

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And it has further plans for its trade showroom, highlighting its current site is temporary, with plans for a permanent venue.

Wilson adds: “Our head office in Leeds is going to move in the next two years and when that happens, we will create a permanent showroom where we can hold training sessions, cooking demonstrations and invite consumers, so they can learn about the products and go back to retailers to purchase the products.”

Although he doesn’t rule out a Wigmore Street-style venue, further down the line, Wilson concludes: “it’s important we don’t run too fast and we listen to people along the way.

“The product and the independent retailers come first and that’s where we’re getting started. I believe that will give us that chance to succeed.”