MHK | Define the Concept

Director of Concept 17 Stuart Chadwick explains how buying group MHK helped save his business

01 Nov, 19


Director of Concept 17 Stuart Chadwick explains how buying group MHK helped save his business, after the former kitchen franchisee had to re-establish itself as an independent showroom

MHK | Define the concept

Stuart Chadwick has re-established his kitchen retail business as an independent studio.


Having started life as a second showroom of the Intoto Batley franchise, when Alno collapsed in 2017 it left the director of Intoto Leeds Stuart Chadwick with outstanding orders to fulfil but no suppliers.

He even had to find a new name for his business. “It was a nightmare”, he exclaims, adding: “We had 16 Wellmann and Alno kitchens in the pipeline that were due to the UK. I had to hand back three deposits, instantly.”

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It was at this time he was approached by buying group MHK, which offered a ‘ready-made’ solution to help fulfil orders, guide and assist the business with sourcing new suppliers.

As a trading business, time was of the essence and every lost day had a direct impact on the business and its ability to weather a period of not being able to take orders.

And quickly having to adopt a whole new trading concept in 2017, from franchise to independent, it seemed natural to use this – Concept 17 – as the company’s brand.

Buying group beginnings

When MHK approached Concept 17 it facilitated a visit to Germany for Stuart Chadwick to find out what furniture manufacturers had to offer.

“We went around the factories of seven companies. We went to look at entry up to a top-class German kitchen and everything in-between.”

Stuart continues: “Because we were in the Intoto bubble, we wouldn’t have known these suppliers without MHK’s help.”

Stuart looked around seven companies and narrowed his choice to Brigette and Bauformat, to sell at two price points in the kitchen market.

He explains Brigette was an “easy-ish” decision, as the factory was located next to Wellmann and so he was familiar with the brand name, if not the company.

He continues: “It was a quick fix. They had 80% of the doors and finishes we used from the old company.

“But 80% meant there were still 20% we couldn’t get. Bauformat picked up on the 20% of doors and finishes we couldn’t get from Brigitte.”

These brands joined the company’s existing British supplier Kesseler who “jumped to our rescue”, exclaims Stuart.

And he believes he now has the best of both worlds, offering both German and a British manufacturers, stating: “I don’t want to be back in the position where my eggs are in one basket. I don’t ever want that to happen again.”

MHK | Define the concept 1

Concept 17 offers a trio of furniture suppliers, with German brands Brigitte and Bauformat offered through MHK Group, plus British-made Kesseler

Accounts with credit

MHK eased the path with supplier partnerships, as the buying group already had accounts opened withcompanies and pre-negotiated trading terms for its members.

This included early settlement and rebate schemes, on top of 1% that MHK returns to its members.

The additional 1% MHK bonus immediately improved bottom line profits for Concept 17 by 8.5% and Stuart continued to benefit from payment after 30 days, something not usually available in a new business relationship.

Stuart explains: “They opened doors for us and they opened accounts for us, which we would have been unable to do instantly because all of a sudden we were trading as a new company.

“We had a credit line built up over 10 years and then all of a sudden we were starting again.

“MHK had those doors already open and we were able to use their account line.

“When you think I’ve got to open appliance, sinks and kitchen furniture accounts, there was a lot to do in a short space of time, whereas they could open the door instantly and gave me a credit limit. That’s something even now that’s a big benefit to me.”

Needless contract worry

Despite having no experience of buying groups and therefore no preconceptions, initially Stuart was a little sceptical about signing a contract with another organisation.

“We were worried about getting into bed with MHK because we didn’t think they’d let us use alternative suppliers to the group. We were nervous about that, I have to say. But even to this day, we still use Kesseler.

“We were waiting for the catch and it never came.”

And in fact he praises the partnerships with both organisations continuing: “The combination of what we got from Kesseler and what we got from MHK are the biggest reasons we are still here today.

“We didn’t know if we had a way out or not and they helped where they could and gave us light at the end of the tunnel.”

Growing sales avenues

The transition from franchise to independent has also enabled wider sales opportunities, with Concept 17 now supplying contract as well as retail.

“We supply two to three building companies and that has really helped us keep busy while we are waiting for retail customers who don’t want to make a purchasing decision while Brexit is going on.

“As an Intoto showroom we didn’t have any contract work. Now, all of a sudden, being an independent store with MHK has given us better buying terms and prices, which made us interesting to developers.”

MHK | Define the concept 3

Broadening its customer base, Concept 17 is now supplying developers as well as private clients.


Seeking business normality

Despite a noticeable hesitation from retail customers to buy, business is steady.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve know it to be busier but you’ve got to be thankful for what you’ve got and what’s coming through the door. We’re keeping our heads above water and that’s the important bit.

“When Brexit is out of the way I think people will be willing to get on with it.”

And he continues explaining that the uncertainty remains the greatest challenge in retailing: “We don’t know what it’s going to do or not do and no one can really say because we’ve never been in this position before.

“verybody is telling us there’ll be no change and business as usual but we don’t know.”

Following Brexit, Stuart hopes Concept 17 will be on an even keel, with all links to the former franchise closed.

“We’re changing the last two displays that are the old supplier. Financially, that has taken us from 2017 to now, to be able to do that”, says Stuart.

And he concludes: “By the end of this year, we will have a showroom of three suppliers, with something new for people to look at, and I’d like to go back to concentrate on designing and selling kitchens – again.”


Also read about Elmore Kitchens who used MHK to transform its business from an kitchen franchise to an independent dealer.