KBBG adds JJO to its portfolio

The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) has added JJO Plc, a leading UK kitchen brand, to its portfolio.

Family owned, JJO was established in 1868 and based at Bacup in Lancashire Its’ sales director, John Pollitt, said: “JJO Plc is delighted to be working in partnership with KBBG.The attraction of JJO Plc becoming part of the KBBG portfolio is that both parties concerned are one hundred per cent focused and dedicated to serving independent kitchen specialist retailers.

Bill-Miller-and-John-Pollit
Bill Miller, managing director of KBBG (left) and John Pollit sales director of JJO Plc.

“For this reason, there was immediate synergy. JJO Plc brands, Colonial Kitchens, Eco Kitchens, Colonial Bedrooms and Eco Bathrooms, offer alternatives to the German brands and styles, allowing KBBG members to purchase styles and colours in keeping with many UK client requirements.”

Bill Miller, KBBG’s managing director, says: “The addition of such a prestigious UK kitchen brand to our group is another major feather in our cap and once again a clear demonstration of our desire to bring our members the very best suppliers in our industry.

“We have made tremendous progress in a relatively short space of time and we continue to work with our members and suppliers in order to strengthen the position of UK independent kitchen specialists.

“We are looking to add further retail members to our group who are pro-active and wish to make their mark with top quality offerings for their customers. The support of JJO will certainly help us achieve this.”

Hansgrohe is go!

Hansgrohe is one of the leading brassware brands sold through independent bathroom showrooms and it seems that its support for the independent sector has paid off handsomely for the company.

Following unprecedented UK sales growth over the past eighteen months, Hansgrohe SE is investing substantially in its UK subsidiary including new key organisational roles and a new London home for projects at 12-16 Clerkenwell Road, EC1

Investment in London premises is a key strategic move in order to be physically closer to the architect and design community. In a prime Clerkenwell location, the new centre will drive specifications both in the UK  and globally and also provide great facilities for training and networking. The aim is for 12-16 Clerkenwell Road to be ready to welcome customers within the next six months.

Critical to delivering strategic initiatives in the coming years is the new senior role of strategy and business development. With immediate effect this is filled by Joanna Williams who has a proven track record in commercial sales and marketing roles for blue chip companies including Brother, Bank of America and BUPA.

Several new sales and marketing roles have been introduced with a strong emphasis on project business. Four additional field sales positions have been added for the projects channel, including a national sales manager to replace the incumbent, Jay Phillips who has been promoted to Sales Director. Four sales coordinators for the internal project  sales office will boost the department and ensure a more proactive sales approach.

Within the marketing team, the current marketing manager, Noel Riley, is promoted to marketing director and six new positions will have a channel specific focus: three for projects and three for retail including a head of channel for each.

UK managing director Martin Mongan said: “We are really excited by these strategic developments. With the right people in the right roles and the new flagship in Clerkenwell, we are well-placed to continue growing and meet the stringent goals that we’ve set ourselves by 2020”

Dig deep for the Perrin & Rowe charity appeal

It seems that almost every week somebody in the kitchen or bathroom market is climbing something or running, jumping or swimming something in the name of a charity.

All worthy causes I am sure, and in my day job of updating the kb-network website, I do my best to give as many of these endeavours editorial coverage as I can. But once in a while up pops an appeal that really grabs my attention; either because the feat of endurance being undertaken is mind-bogglingly difficult, or because you would need a heart of stone not to want to do something to help the cause being supported.

And then along came this appeal from Perrin & Rowe that managed to tick both of these boxes, which is why I hope you will join me in giving its appeal a few quid.

Perrin-&-Rowe-Crew
Part of the Perrin & Rowe Crew (from L-to-R): Andrew Denney (Vintage Aircraft Paint & Fabric), Justin Homewood (Water Monopoly), Phil Cole (Perrin & Rowe), Matt Boreham (R.C. Boreham) & Steve Cole (Perrin & Rowe)

Steve Cole, MD of Perrin & Rowe, has managed to ‘persuade’ nine other people to kayak from the SS Great Britain tall ship in Bristol Harbour to the Cutty Sark tall ship at Greenwich, a total of around 200 miles in four days, from 9 – 12 September

Steve and his fellow heroes are doing this to raise money for Little Havens Children’s Hospice which is based in Thundersley, Essex and provides respite breaks, symptom control and end of life care to youngsters not expected to reach adulthood because of a life-limiting or life-threatening condition.

Havens Hospice is a fantastic charitable organisation that gives much needed support to families and the local community. This challenge is truly physically and mentally demanding, the team will have to cover over 50 miles per day in the first three days, in order to meet the gruelling task of kayaking up the tidal Thames and then lift the kayaks out of the water at The Cutty Sark, Greenwich to finish.

“This is such a worthy cause as the unique and vital services that the hospice provides completely free-of-charge to all families requires around £2.5 million per year just to survive,” said Steve Cole. “Whilst Havens do receive very limited Government funding, most of the funds needed are raised through many community fund raising events and larger corporate events such as this.”

Known members of the kbb industry include Steve plus David Cole and Philip Cole of Perrin & Rowe, Martin Gill, acting CEO and Simon Richmond, MD of Poggenpohl UK and Mark Bristow, MD of Sinks & Things.

They leave Bristol on September 9th at first light and hope to be at Greenwich Pier on Saturday evening September 12th. This really is a serious challenge; it will test their strength and endurance to the limits using 5 two man sea kayaks and kayaking approximately 50 miles per day.

So, what can you do to help these guys and the Havens Hospice? The kayak team needs to raise corporate sponsorship of around £5000 to pay for its kit. They have already arranged to sell the kayaks back to the suppliers and donate the money received to the fund.

In addition, they are looking for individual donations and these can be made either via the appeal’s dedicated JustGiving page or by texting ‘KYAK60 £2’ to 70070.

The donation target is £25k and I look forward to reporting on how this was smashed by the generosity of the good people of the kitchen and bathroom markets.

Over to you!

Footnote: What’s the difference between a canoe and a kayak? A canoe is much warmer because, as you know, you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

The good, the bad or the ugly?

The good, the bad or the uglyWhen it comes to the products you recommend to your clients and/or display in your showroom what are the features you look for?

  • Which brands are you happy to be associated with and why, and which brands do you do not want to do business with and why?
  • Ripping your showroom apart to make room for the latest bright and shiny toy that a rep convinces you is the new black may not be your idea of fun weekend, but what does have you reaching for the marker pen to compose a ‘To Clear, Ex-Display Model’ notice?
  • Taking out a complete kitchen or bathroom setting may not be on the cards, but how about changing some of the appliances or bathroom brassware?
  • Are you comfortable putting your showroom faith in a sales agent with a nice briefcase, or would you rather deal with companies that have a proper infrastructure in the UK, and a credible aftersales and service network to back your business up?

For my next feature for Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine I would like to get answers to some of these questions from retail-based kitchen and/or bathroom designers so I can write about the real issues that designers have to deal with in the day-to-day business of running their companies.

If you would like to share with your fellow kitchen or bathroom retailers your main reasons for why you do business with the companies you do business with, or name and shame the suppliers that you would not touch with a bargepole, the between you and me forum on LinkedIn awaits…

Niche works… if you can get it

The news from UBM that it is to scrap the May Design Series (MDS) so it can concentrate on niche shows such as Decorex, Sleep, kbb Birmingham and kbb London raises a number of interesting issues as far as the kitchen and bathroom retail markets are concerned.

UBM said on 22 June that it was ‘responding to exhibitor and visitor feedback’, but the closing date on the MDS visitor questionnaire is 26 June which makes me wonder how much ‘feedback’ actually went into the decision. I’d also be very interested to learn about the research UBM used to confirm that the UK’s retail kitchen and bathroom sector was looking for an exhibition each year, and how large the niche audience is for these events, as I suspect it is somewhat smaller than the annual audience for shows such as Decorex and Sleep.

Potential audience

Decorex’s potential audience of interior designers almost certainly outnumber UK independent kitchen retailers by a considerable margin and this market is used to annual fashion changes in fabric trends and the accessories interior designers need to know about to be at the top of their game. Sleep meanwhile attracts an international audience which again, I suspect, is somewhat larger than the UK’s kitchen and bathroom retail market.

But while the majority of kitchens sold in the UK are made in the UK, the contemporary design trends mostly surface first at exhibitions in Cologne at Living Kitchen and at EuroCucina in Milan at events that take place every two years. Major bathroom trends tend to set at ISH in Frankfurt, but again it is every two years. It is also worth noting that neither Living Kitchen nor EuroCucina take place in splendid isolation either. The kitchen content at Cologne and the kitchen and bathroom content in Milan are part of larger interiors shows, much the same as the May Design Series set out to be, albeit with much stronger representation by the home companies.

Initial research

We accept that 80% of the UK’s consumers now do their initial research for a major purchase online so we shouldn’t be too surprised if kitchen and bathroom retailers do the same thing. There has been a substantial increase in the number of companies presenting new products on YouTube for example, and this has a great appeal to the exhibition ‘plinth-kickers’ that want to see what a kitchen or bathroom company has to offer without giving their contact details to a hungry salesperson.

Manufacturers are increasingly bypassing the established information routes to market via printed publications and exhibitions by going direct to retailers with website content, blogs, plus pots on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Online alternatives

And a certain proportion of the social aspect of going to a trade event and bumping into old friends is also catered for online by LinkedIn’s forums, Facebook and Twitter.

So, is there still a need for kitchen and bathroom trade show in the UK – niche or otherwise – and do we need one every year?

If you have a view on the future of trade shows in the UK, share it on the between you and me forum on LinkedIn.

Designer opportunity at Diane Berry Kitchens

In the absence of any industry-wide recognised qualification for kitchen design this side of the first students completing the Foundation Degree course in Kitchen Design at Bucks New University, the best way to have your kitchen design skills recognised is to either win a kitchen design award, or to work for an award-winning kitchen designer.

Diane Berry
Diane Berry

A rare opportunity to join Manchester-based Diane Berry Kitchens is currently available, and when it comes to collecting awards for kitchen design, Diane Berry and her team has a track-record that is probably second-to-none.

Since 2011 Diane Berry Kitchens has either been a finalist or outright winner of virtually every credible national kitchen design competition including:

  • Winning the KBSA’s Designer of the Year Award and KBSA Kitchen Designer of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014
  • Finalist for kbbreview’s Kitchen Showroom of the Year 2015, Kitchen Designer of the Year 2015, and Kitchen Retailer of the Year 2015

Such national recognition has led to a substantial increase in business for Diane Berry Kitchens which is why an additional kitchen designer is now urgently needed by the company.

“We are looking for someone that loves the kitchen industry and wants to bring together the best of products and services for their client,” says Diane. “They must have a passion for good design and care about their clients and have attention to detail.

“We have a small team of hardworking caring people working together to make our working environment fun and professional and helping our clients realise their dream home.”

An award-winning kitchen design by Diane Berry Kitchens
An award-winning kitchen design by Diane Berry Kitchens

The new designer’s responsibilities would include meeting and greeting clients, carrying out home site surveys, creating designs and costings and taking project to a detailed order.

Ideally the kitchen designer joining Diane Berry Kitchens will already have a good level of experience in these areas and be looking to make a move to an award-winning company where their expertise will be recognised and rewarded. However, the additional position at Diane Berry Kitchens is also open to people with design experience in other areas.

If you think you are that designer, your next move should be to write an email to: diane@dianeberrykitchens.co.uk and explain why you are the ideal candidate to join this award-winning kitchen design business.

What’s the benefit of staff training?

Richard Branson once said “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.” However, is this really the most important part to a business?

Recently I spoke to kitchen surface specialist and owner of Max-Top, Stephen Moss, about the importance of training staff as he prepares to launch a nationwide training course designed to practically demonstrate the preparation and installation of its unique surface, Max-Top Quartz.

Stephen Moss
Stephen Moss, managing director of Max-Top UK

GJM: Why is training so important?

Stephen Moss: The correct training is crucial to any business as it helps employees develop the key skills and knowledge needed in order for them to work to the best of their ability. This has a knock on effect to the product as it increases the quality of work.

What’s more, training allows fitters to learn about how a product works in order for them to be able to install the product in the most efficient way possible. This is particularly relevant to the kitchen surface industry. If you take into consideration the number of different materials which could be used for a kitchen surface, the possibilities are almost endless!

From granite to wood to laminate, each material works in very different ways and a fitter needs to know what the best method for installation is. This is to ensure that the customer is left with a fully functioning product and a smile on their face. By learning about the potential hazards of a product, fitters can install with confidence, saving time and keeping the customer very happy.

GJM: Ok so training is an integral part of a business. Therefore, is it commonplace for companies to offer training to their employees?

SM: Unfortunately, not every company offers training to their staff. This could be for a number of different reasons but most of the time it’s because there is simply not enough money invested into that part of a company. Offering your workers training courses is a sensible and responsible approach taken by manufacturers who care about their product and the people who buy it.

Max-Top training
Contractors, retailers and installers attend the first Max-Top training course at its Manchester HQ

After all, having employees who boast an impressive skill set can help your organisation boost its reputation in the industry due to high customer satisfaction rates. It is also a good way of increasing customer loyalty; a customer is more likely to use a company again if they are satisfied with the service they received!

GJM: For retailers, do you think training employees will be beneficial to them as a company?

SM: Yes definitely. Providing training opportunities shows your employees that you are prepared to invest time and money into them. As an employer it demonstrates your commitment to their development. Naturally, this boosts morale and creates a happy workforce. This also comes in use when you are recruiting as it makes your business an attractive place to work.

GJM: Is there anything you would like to add about your own training course?

SM: The course we offer at Max-Top Quartz has been tailored for installers of surfaces as well as people who sell or design surfacing. Every participant on the course will gain a thorough understanding of Max-Top Quartz, enabling them to leave with profitable installation skills and in-depth product knowledge for confident selling.

Max-Top Quatrz Ochre finish
Max-Top Quatrz Ochre finish

For more information on the training course or Max-Top surfaces, please visit the Max-Top Quartz website at: www.maxtopquartz.co.uk

What price a free design service?

Whilst most people agree that there is no such thing as a free lunch, many people at the sharp end of kitchen and/or bathroom retailing insist on promoting the myth of offering a ‘free’ design service.

Free design service
No free lunch but a free design service?

Of course, if it was a genuine free design service any Tom, Dick or Harriet could walk in off the street and get their next kitchen or bathroom designed for nothing, and then taken the plans down to their local superstore.

Given the public’s apparent willingness to believe that they really are saving 50% plus the VAT on a kitchen, or 60% off a kitchen for a limited period, 60% plus 20% off a kitchen (yikes!), or any of the other promotional offers currently doing the rounds, one probably cannot blame an independent kitchen or bathroom retailer for joining in the fun and offering something for nothing too.

But are they giving away their ‘crown jewels’ when they offer to provide their most important USP for nothing? How do they square the circle of offering a ‘free’ design service while promoting themselves as an expert in kitchen or bathroom design?

For my next feature for Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine I would like to get the views of kitchen and bathroom retail designers and their suppliers on the true value of a free design service.

  • Do you offer free design with strings attached so that it only becomes free if the consumer buys their kitchen or bathroom from you?
  • Do you charge for designing a kitchen or bathroom and then take the design fee off of the final invoice?
  • Or do you make a professional charge for offering a professional service?

If you have answers to any of the above or a general comment on free design services that you would like to share with readers of this blog and Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine, please visit the between you and me forum on LinkedIn where a copy of this post awaits your attention.

Kitchen designers can help dementia sufferers

Dementia-Society-logoBA Components reveal how kitchen designers and their suppliers can help dementia patients in their daily lives.

Hardly a week goes past without dementia being mentioned in the media and it is probably fair to say that most of us know someone whose life has been touched in one way or another by it. But while dementia itself may be in the news, steps that can be taken to help those who suffer from it get less attention.

Recently BA Components published a post on its blog about the role kitchen designers can play in helping dementia sufferers.

“We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dubheasa Gallagher from the Alzheimer’s Society about the importance of kitchen design for those living with dementia,” writes BA Components. “As a company who manufacture kitchen doors, we were keen to see what we can be doing to help with the design of kitchens.”

Tell us about your role with Alzheimer’s Society.

“Alzheimer’s Society launched an exciting programme in April 2013 known as Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC). The four-year programme, funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and Alzheimer’s Society, will challenge misunderstandings and stigma surrounding dementia and seek to improve the ability of people living with dementia to remain independent for as long as possible.

As part of the programme, we are offering to deliver a free awareness workshop to businesses/ organisations and the general public to help increase people’s knowledge of dementia and increase their confidence and skills to enable them to relate, communicate and support people living with dementia. We also provide some guidance and tips on how to create a more dementia friendly environment, in terms of design.

With greater awareness the wider community can support people with dementia to carry out daily tasks independently; within their own homes, local community and beyond.

What are the things to look out for when designing a kitchen for someone who is living with dementia?

Dementia is caused by physical diseases of the brain. It is a progressive disease, which affects not only the memory, but the ability to do day to day tasks and can cause sight and visual difficulties. So something like making a cup of tea can prove to be a difficult task.

Due to memory loss the person’s own home may become increasingly difficult to navigate their way around, so clear signage is important- a sign with a visual and text and placed at eye level, i.e. Kitchen with a picture of a plate, knife and fork.

It is even more helpful if the cupboards are glass fronted so the person can see what is in that cupboard rather than having to open every door to see where the cups are.

People with dementia tend to regress back in their memory so may be able to use a kitchen which is traditional in style in comparison to a modern style kitchen, i.e. handles on doors and drawers that are clear, and traditional taps as opposed to sensor.

Highly reflective surfaces can cause difficulties, i.e. floors or worktops, as it may be perceived that it is slippery or wet, or can be extremely confusing if they see their own reflection as they may think it is someone or something else.

Lighting is also important. It needs to be bright and ensure that there are no pools of shadows.

Why are these pointers so important?

People living with dementia and their carers tell us that as cognitive ability declines it becomes harder to continue to undertake day-to-day activities within their local communities and even in their own homes. We need to create awareness that small changes can make a big difference.

What can kitchen manufacturers to do help?

Contact a DFC to increase their knowledge, adhere to the Dementia Friendly Design Audit tool, especially if they are designing kitchens for businesses, organisations, and health and social care settings, i.e. nursing and residential care homes.

What can kitchen retailers to do help?

Also contact a DFC so they are aware of the needs of people living with dementia. They may be able to provide solutions to families who are struggling with their current design.

Footnote:
Established in 1990 and operating from Cookstown in Co. Tyrone and Doncaster in Yorkshire, BA Components has grown steadily to become a major manufacturer of kitchen and bedroom doors and accessories in the UK and Irish furniture components industry.

Further information:
Click here to visit the BA Components blog.
Click here to find out more about Dementia Friendly Communities.
Click here to find out more about the Alzheimer’s Society.

Three to see at the May Design Series

The May Design Series (MDS) opens its doors on Sunday, 17 May at 10am. Running over three days at the ExCeL Centre in London, this year’s exhibition promises to bring together exhibitors from around the globe.

Sunshower
Sunshower

Don’t go to this show expecting to see a kitchen and bathroom exhibition. Go to it expecting to see an interiors event with some kitchen and bathroom content.

The organisers of the May Design Series say that a wealth of interior design inspiration can be discovered across five sectors: Furniture, Lighting, Décor, KBB, and DX – areas that showcase ideas in the making to provide a glimpse into the future.

I will be at MDS 2015 on 17 May from Sunday afternoon and tweeting from the show on @gjmtweets. I will also be reporting on it for www.kb-network.co.uk, starting on Monday 18 May.

Meanwhile, here are three of this year’s exhibitors that have caught my eye so far…

Sunshower, a Dutch company founded in 2003 by two engineers from Delft, has developed a unique lighting product of the same name with a UV and an infrared function. When installed under the shower the UV light stimulates the production of vitamin D to re-energise while the infrared improves circulation, helps muscles and joints to heal fast and relieves pain for rheumatic patients.

Fresh from ISH, Dornbracht will present an exclusive UK preview of the new Dornbracht CL.1 fitting series for the bathroom, with a new flow pattern that gently immerses the user’s hands in 40 soft, individual jets of water. Dornbracht will also reveal its latest advances for the kitchen as well as new products from its sister-brand Alape.

Dornbracht
Dornbracht

The increasing trend for mixing textured woodgrains with grey matt finishes will be shown using the new Dark Real Oak combined with new Grigio soft grey matt by Rotpunkt. The display will also show the two new metal handrail profiles, G78D with chamfered edge and the Square profile, which again offer more choice. The new Zerox Plus with aluminium trim at the top and bottom of the door for a very contemporary look will also be shown.

Rotpunkt
Rotpunkt

For a full list of exhibitors, at this year’s May Design Series, please visit the Exhibitor List section of the MDS website.

See you at the show!