Co-owner of Meliora Kitchens in Bawtry, Kelly Roden says a desire to do better in servicing the customer is not only the meaning of the company’s name but also the ethos of the business.
With a background in kitchen retailing at a national company, husband and wife Leon and Kelly Roden believed they could offer customers a better service.
So, two years’ ago, they opened their own business Meliora which means “ever better” in Latin and which is the ethos of the company.
Most recently it has moved into a larger, adjacent property.
Kelly explains why Meloria felt the need to expand: “In our previous showroom, we could only have one client in at a time.
“If a client was on the phone to the bank and someone else came in, it could be awkward. Here we have more separation for those kinds of conversations.”
And the move also allowed Meliora to broaden its vision. The company was a Second Nature dealer and as Kelly explains “We always had a really good relationship with PWS but felt a little bit stunted.”
She continues: “We were approached by a small factory in Mansfield that make handmade kitchens and we would never have been able to display them [in the old premises] because it was too small.
“It was a leap of faith for us, and for the manufacturer who provided the display, because the only way we could do it was by moving. This premises really lends itself to this product.”
The property boasts original features from posts and beams to arched windows.
“We do a lot of barn conversions and our clients have spaces like this, so we really wanted them to feel as though they walking into something like they were going to have,” explains Kelly.
She adds: “We wanted it to be ‘Instagram’ worthy; that’s the vibe.”
Certainly, the Meliora showroom offers Instagram worthy kitchens, with the front display boasting a 2m island with adjoining 2m dining table.
Kelly adds “It opened up being able to showcase what we could do in a personalised way.”
The personality is carried through to the bathroom window display, with a raised platform in the window to showcase a freestanding bath and Crittal-style shower enclosure.
Kelly adds: “Hurlingham, themselves, said retailers want to put a bath, especially copper, in the window. But a lot of the time when you’re in the showroom, they are hidden.
“Our customers are sat next to it during all our design discussions.”
Designed by Kelly and made a reality by Leon, they worked on the showroom together.
Kelly says “We took the keys in April and moved into the new showroom in May with a ‘semblance of displays’.”
And the couple took the bold move of opening it before completion.
Kelly explains “The big stuff was done. It was just jobs like getting the tiling done on the bathrooms that needed completing.”
Taking on a bigger space has meant taking on new suppliers and Kelly has chosen those suppliers, that benefit her business and her clients.
Whether it’s because they have given her full reign of product for display, supported her with samples or listed the business on their website, each supplier has to prove its worth.
She also explains she prefers to use suppliers who deal direct as “we’re finding distributors aren’t holding as much stock, which I understand as the market is really up and down.
“But particularly for bathrooms, it’s been tough. I’ve put an order in three or six months’ before I need it and when it comes to it being delivered half of it is missing and there’s no prior warning. So when we are buying direct I get an answer straightway.”
Although she points out both Barwicks and Maurice Lay are “brilliant”.
And interestingly, location plays an important part in choice of suppliers, as Kelly adds “We like British-based companies with products designed for the British market. So with Caple ovens you get a grill pan with a handle.”
She adds: “Abode has been excellent offering us whatever we wanted for the showroom and when we ring them up and ask for advice they are really helpful.
“I love that they are based locally as well – in Barnsley – and our customers like that.”
One of her biggest bugbears, however, is selling appliances: “They have become so devalued by the likes of Ao and Currys and not just profit margin, it’s the value consumers now don’t put in appliances.
“‘It’s just an oven’. No, it’s not just an oven; you’ll use that oven a lot. If a customer appreciates it, they’ll pay for it but we have to build the value back into it a lot of the time,” says Kelly.
However, style-wise, she finds consumers are more discerning. “I think social media has made people a lot more design conscious.”
But she says they still need advice: “If they show me an image from Pinterest or Instagram, I’ll say ‘Glass doors are lovely but can you live with cleaning them and do you have something to present in them?’ because as nice as they look, is it going to work for the customer?”
It’s this kind of advice that sees very few “plinth kickers” coming into the Meliora showroom.
“We sometimes get customers at the end of the process with a national retailer where the kitchen isn’t quite fulfilling what they wanted.
“But we’ve got customers, because of the area we are in, who want to be looked after.
“There seems to be a client that wants the quality – they may not necessarily want to pay for it because we’re still in Yorkshire at the end of the day – let’s be fair”, Kelly jokes “but there is money here.”
In fact, kitchen sales span from £15,000 to £50,000, not including fit, with bathroom orders around £6,000-£8,000.
This practical approach is reflected throughout the business, as Kelly chooses to work on proforma.
“We don’t want to owe anything. It keeps us on top of our finances and not fall foul to these things we hear a lot about in this industry.”
And the company is focused on supply-only sales, as she explains: “We use sub-contracted fitting teams, with contacts that we have built up over years.
“Customers pay them direct and they’re not paying our VAT on top. So we find this works really well for the customer and at the heart of everything we do is the customer.”
So how has business been over the past two years?
“It has been tough. I think running any small business is a massive learning curve. I’m like a hamster on a wheel at the moment, trying to keep up. It’s a really good problem to have.”
And her longer-term vision for Meliora is to manage a project a week.
Kelly admits “Logistics is our biggest pain, at the minute, in the business. If we’ve got to use as many suppliers as we need to get the customer what they want, that’s what we’ll do. But obviously, logistically, that’s really tough.
“It’s not all suppliers who will deliver to site and then if they will, it’s managing when they’ll do that and making sure there’s somebody there, as we don’t like customers having to take deliveries.
“So our next investment is getting a storage unit to take the delivery and then take it out to a customer.”
It certainly demonstrates how Meliora is consistently planning how to be “ever better”.