Why retail partnerships and support services are as integral to Blum UK as hinges and drawer boxes, sales and marketing director David Sanders explains
Blum had to make some tough decisions during the supply challenges of the pandemic to ensure fair and equal distribution of its products to retailers, capping orders and not opening new accounts.
Now the company is out the other side and sales and marketing director of Blum UK David Sanders has a “relatively positive” outlook, despite the uncertain times of the world we now live in.
He adds: “We are very grateful all our customers stuck with us during this time, believed in what we were trying to do and believed in how we did it.
“Now, I hope in the coming years, they will see the pay back of that loyalty by us investing in their businesses, with a range of support services.”
Service and support
Speaking about surrounding its product with services, David Sanders adds: “What the pandemic and the last two years proved to us was product and services are what drives business forward and it’s what our customers need.”
It has seen the company invest in an extended technical support hotline, which operates from 8am to 8pm, five days a week, and is also open Saturday morning.
Sanders explains: “We find that 6-8pm is one of the busiest times of the day for the technical hotline. People have finished work but need to figure out the issue before the next day.”
And Blum UK has also created a series of Experience Weeks for its retail customers, with five to six, operating through the year, providing information on a range of business issues from AI design and its impact on kitchens through to marketing, such as building a brand.
Sanders comments: “Our retail services continue to go from strength-to-strength.”
He continues: “A lot of our customers are so focused on designing and selling kitchens, sometimes the marketing and promotion side of the business is left to one side.
“We’re trying to help customers understand there are quick and easy wins in marketing – even if you haven’t got a lot of time.”
Blum started the Experience Weeks in February with plans to book 20 people on a course, so attracting 100 attendees a week.
The second, which ran in March, saw 35 people attend each day and June was almost sold out.
Sanders exclaims: “I’ve been blown away by how successful these Experience Weeks have been and the amount of people that have booked on them. It’s been phenomenal”
He adds: “The best feedback we had from retailers who came said we thought we came to look at hinges and drawers and we can’t believe you didn’t show us any.”
Focused on sustainability
Of course, that doesn’t mean Blum has stopped developing new product. Far from it.
The company has exhibited at Interzum where it launched the Carbon Black Legrabox and introduced electronic fittings, following the acquisition of Austrian electronic products manufacturer System Industrie Electronic.
It’s just product now forms a part, instead of the entirety, of the company’s offer, as Sanders explains: “We have to be a service-orientated business going forward, of which product is one of the services that we offer.
“What we have learned is if you want to be a partner to retailers, you have to offer more value.”
By providing a package of services around its products, Sanders believes it will not only help the business but secure the future of the wider kitchen industry too.
“For me , sustainability is about the longevity of business. It’s about how can we sustain our own business and help our customers sustain their businesses?
So despite the uncertain times, Blum UK is on a multimillion pound journey of investment to sustain its business. “As a key brand within the market, we think it’s important that we do invest because you can’t stand still.”
Having expanded its workforce with a variety of expertise to provide business support, Blum UK has increased its headcount by 12% over the past 12 months.
The company also has plans to continue to invest in people: “Increasing the number of services we are offering means, that despite the scaremongering around AI and the fact we’re going to lose our jobs because of robots, we have found we need more people.
“People often ask are you a b2c or a b2b business? We’re neither – we’re a h2h or a human-to-human business.”
Blum now has a team that includes retail sales, ergonomics, photography, brand, social media and copywriting experience.
Sanders continues: “The level of expertise that we built within the business is far wider than just people who know about hinges and drawers.
“Although, of course we still have people who know about hinges and drawers. That’s what we do.”
And to house the increased numbers in staff, Blum is set to complete a £1.6million expansion to its headquarters increasing the premises to 2,200sqm, because the company also recognises the importance of attracting and keeping talent as part of its sustainable ethos.
With an eye on the current energy crisis Blum UK is also set to invest in a “substantial” solar farm within the next six months.
It means the company won’t be dependent on the National Grid, and so will be in charge of some of its own energy destiny.
So what are the expectations of the kitchen industry for 2023 and beyond? Although he believes there will be fewer kitchens sold in 2023 than 2022, meaning greater competition, Sanders says people are still buying kitchens.
He states this will be supported by housebuilders needing to satisfy the shortage of homes in the UK, as well as subsequent house moves.
Sabders concludes: “The world isn’t the same place, let’s be absolutely clear about that. The kitchen industry is not the same as it was pre-pandemic, but is any industry?
“They key thing is being part of a partnership to help businesses be sustainable.”