High street retailers vs the independents, it’s a debate that has been had with every area of shopping and the kitchen business is no different. Whilst the high streets have been throwing out more adverts than a christmas bonanza, independents are dealing with many different aspects heading into the new normal.
So today’s post is designed to give you some insight into the difference between the high street and independent kitchen businesses and what you can expect from both when selecting your new kitchen supplier.
High street retailers will have a very standard kitchen product, and by that we mean things such as;
– Cabinets that are going to be the same across their whole range
– Limited variance in product choice
– Potentially greater variance in colours because of that
– Limited number of finishes and accessories
Independent retailers however will have a different take on their product range including things such as;
- Cabinet ranges will be colour matched or material matched for a greater finish
- Cabinet backs will be thicker which overall produces a better quality kitchen
- Product choice will vary depending on budgets and styles not because of lack of product
- Finishes and accessories will be generally greater leaving you with more choice
One thing to mention is, quality.
It would be easy for an independent kitchen retailer to say that compared to the high street kitchen, independents are better quality but… the reality is that when you look at overall product ranges, finishes, materials used and understand how independents work with their suppliers for a better quality product, its easy to see the difference.
If however you wanted proof that the product is different take this quote from mumsnet on the highstreet kitchen quality, “They look good at first, but the quality of finish is generally poor and will look tired and worn long before many other suppliers, especially those in the gloss ranges.“
Verdict: High Street gives you a base product to work with, independents offer more choice and better quality.
As we saw in our last post, kitchen design is essential and finding the right kitchen design for your space is crucial to enjoy the area and use it the way YOU want to use it. So how does kitchen design vary between high street kitchen retailers and independent retailers?
The high street kitchen design experience is pretty standard:
- You will bring plans already to the showroom/trade spot
- You may have a price/quote that is done a comparison towards
- You will have limited interaction with the designers for the design and that’s all
- The kitchen designer will also be the lead sales agent so providing a standardised design is easier for them
- Your requirements may be considered but your wants are taken into consideration
The independent design experience will vary however:
- A designer will come out to your home and measure the space accurately
- The design that is produced is based on your requirements not that of the designer
- Throughout the kitchen selection and experience of installation, the designer will work as the project manager in many cases
- The designer is not necessarily the sales person but may be – and this will help with discussing things relating to budget and what is achievable for the cost to mind
Overall, if you’re looking for tailored design in your kitchen area, an independent is better suited to the task than a large retailer or trade point. They can work specifically to architect and building plans whilst also looking ahead to the space that is available and know what is achievable.
Sales & Cost
If there is one area that the high street likes to compete on it is that it factors in massive price discounts and promotions. You will have seen adverts where it says, “this kitchen is £3,095*” which is impressive when you consider that it has an island unit and all the latest technology. But it is the asterisk that you need to be wary of.
All high street kitchen retailers will display the asterisk and then a follow up (in very very small print) where it says “*kitchen shown in the advert is £17,995.” That’s a very different price and something which we know happens regularly to attract customers.
This may or may not include fitting which is always an additional cost. Free fitting may be a cost factored into the kitchen price itself so that is always another cost that you need to be wary of.
Finally, one of the other tactics that high street retailers like to deploy when at the sales stage is trying to force “on-the-spot pressure” to make people sign on the day. Forums are littered with plenty of examples of big high street chains and trade points doing this; throwing in an upgraded appliance or discounting another 5% for a signature that day. Not only does this show that high-street retailers are going to use a wide range of tactics but some, like the one shown here, will have massive variances in price between one quote to another.
Many independent retailers will factor in different elements to their costs and how they go about selling a kitchen.
For example, an independent retailer may offer finance packages but the terms and conditions may be unsuitable for some people or that finance company may not lend based on circumstances; this will not always be available to many independent retailers but it is something that we are seeing more of nowadays.
Fitting is usually calculated in the total price but, many independent retailers will be using licensed and insured contractors. This is something that should always be pointed out in a broken down quote as fitting can be anywhere between 10% – 20% of the total kitchen price.
Finally, independents are not sales targetted or commission-based sellers, this means that what you are getting is a much greater individual service, pressure selling is not an option for independent kitchen retailers – the experience as described by many of our customers is, “a consultative approach.”
It goes without saying that all businesses depend on reputation, but for independents, this is even more important because longevity can only be achieved by having a business that is reputable. That would include things like;
- Offering value & great service
- Working with customers to give them the product they want
- Offering a variety of services to help them achieve their look and feel
- Being competitive in price
For nearly 30 years we have built our reputation as a leading independent kitchen company in Chester, installing kitchens that have ranged from very little to some very expensive kitchens, each customer was treated equally and each job finished professionally.
Our belief is that every kitchen should be the kitchen that you have always wanted, not the kitchen someone else wants. That’s why we work with our customers to give them the kitchen they have spent time dreaming about and researching.
Independents cost more though, don’t they?
The biggest question/assumption independents get is, “independent kitchen businesses cost more than a high street equivalent.”
Let’s be clear from the outset, unless you are getting a like-for-like quote then you will never really know the answer. We’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years and not even we truly know because, there are so many factors at play;
- The unit and door materials
- The worktops chosen
- The type of sink and tap selected
- Accessories chosen
- And any other work including, building, flooring… the list goes on.
In short, as the saying goes, “to assume is to make an Ass out of U and Me”. Before dismissing an independent based on hear-say, why not visit one and ask for a quote?
If you were to look at a list of the reasons of independents over high street retailers cost factors you would need to consider all the points and then some more. To summarise these points we would argue that;
- Independents provide a variety of choices and product selections that are based on different criteria altogether.
- Independents work with you to get the kitchen look and feel that you deserve.
- Independents are widely considered to offer a better product overall as well as experience.
- Independents trade on their reputation and not flashy adverts offering massive discounts.
- Independent specialises in project start to finish and are held accountable throughout.
- Independents are entrusted with and by their reputation.
Some independents will trade on name alone and not have many of these elements that they can call on, others will trade on the basis of making a name for themselves by being “reassuringly expensive” – again, this is not what all independents will work towards.
To mitigate these factors, do your research. Ask around, ask to see completed projects or even ask the kitchen company for references. We at Stefano De Blasio Kitchens will happily provide them and many of our customers will happily show you around their kitchen if you ever wanted to visit one to see the quality of the product and even talk to you about the whole process.
For the high street retailers, it is easier to see what customers think and read many reviews from social media sites and review pages. Again, some of these reviews may be unfair or set up by “review-farms” which isn’t correct either. Ask questions, get feedback from anyone that might have had one of their kitchens and make your decisions based on that information over anything else.
There are lots of factors at play when selecting a new kitchen and who should be doing the work. Fundamentally the big lesson is to not let reputations dissuade you from selecting an independent business over a high street kitchen retailer especially when it comes to something like price. As we have demonstrated some high street retailers will have a wide variation of prices for the exact same kitchen or pressure sell you into buying a kitchen on the day.
Things like design, quality of product and service all play a vital role in choosing the right business for you.