TALKING SHOP: Online sales still taking toll

06 Oct, 14

Designer at Kitchen Craft, in Weymouth, Anthony Quinn says online discounts are still affecting appliance sales

I’m not surprised 67% of voters on the Kitchens & Bathrooms News website said showroom sales are still affected by discounted appliances on the internet. It’s a complete nightmare. I’ve recently lost a kitchen sale to a competitor because, in my opinion, they have been silly enough to match an internet price. The appliances are cheaper than we can buy them for. Internet discounting is across all appliance brands, pretty much. They don’t give any thought at all to ther dealers. I know everyone is out to make money and make a profit but we’re the ones in the firing line. Customers come in, get our advice and say ‘thank you very much’, then go and buy appliances cheaper online or from a retailer who will match the discounted prices.

Stop selling appliances

So you think what’s the point of selling appliances? You could say to your customers “there’s the web address, go get it yourself. Get the appliance delivered a week in advance, unwrap it and make sure it’s okay and not damaged. Then we’ll fit it for you. Just let us know what you get.” That way, we also won’t be liable for the appliance guarantee. And that’s why I think the company around the corner from us has been a bit short-sighted matching online pricing. If the oven does go wrong outside of the warranty period and the manufacturer says the customer hasn’t taken any extra guarantees, then the retailer will have to replace them and could be out of pocket.

Choose brands wisely

Or you could put all your eggs in one basket and select one manufacturer to try and become more important to them and get better deals. But the problem with appliances is that people have good and bad experiences with brands. It’s like buying a car. You speak to some people and they will only buy a Ford car and then you’ll speak to someone else and they’ll say “I wouldn’t touch a Ford they are absolutely rubbish”. Talking to people in the showroom about appliances, it’s the same. You need variety. With big appliances like ovens, hobs, fridge freezers, washing machines, consumers will often only stick to what they know. We’ve even looked into brands that aren’t available on the internet. Luce by Hotpoint is only meant to be available to showrooms, through distribution but John Lewis was selling them online because they’ve got them in their stores. At the moment we’re going through a slight rebranding and we’re even looking into online sales. The appliances will comes straight from the supplier, to the customer. We won’t have to deal with any of the hassle, unless we are also designing their kitchen as we will still have to take away the old appliances, according to the Waste Electrical Regulations [Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.

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Selling takeaway service

How are online companies – Jo Bloggs in his shed – getting rid of Mr & Mrs Smith’s faulty fridge freezer they are replacing? We use this to counteract online appliance discounts. If there is about £50 difference, I say to customers ‘How are you getting rid of your old appliances? You can’t take your fridge freezer down the tip. You’ve got to take it to a separate recycling place.’ We also explain how we work, saying ‘We’ll unwrap [the appliances] and make sure they’re not damaged. We start the appliance ups, so with fridge freezers we’ll make sure they achieve the right temperature. With ovens, we burn off all the lacquer on the inside and the elements. It’s a smelly, horrible job. But we can only do that service if there is a little bit of play in it. And that can work with customers, unless there is a large price difference. In my opinion, manufacturers should offer standard rate of terms throughout the whole of distribution, so everyone gets 20% discount. Then they should introduce a partnership or a showroom scheme, where if you display even just one oven and one hob, you get an extra 15-20% off. If retailers, whether high street or online, then start undercutting prices, manufactuers should take away that extra discount.