NEWS | Round-up VIEWPOINT Why bricks beat clicks

Roy Saunders, CEO of TKC, considers the advantages of real shops over online and gives his tips on how he’d do it if he was a retailer

Neil Lerner Kitchens closes after 30 years

HIGH-PROFILE London KBB studio owner Neil Lerner has confirmed that he has been forced to close the doors on the family business he has run for 30 years. Lerner said it is “with great regret” that he had to announce that Neil Lerner Kitchens ceased trading on April 17.

BRICKS-AND-MORTAR versus the internet is something we all keep chewing on and weighing the pros and cons. A big tick for me is grocery shopping online, with Mr Sainsbury delivering my goods on time and carrying them into the house. It’s a big cross, though, when I discover they’ve substituted an item with something wholly unsuitable. Many of us like the convenience of the internet, but hate what it’s doing to our high streets. I always say, though, that for every trend, there’s a counter-trend. We’ve seen the return of real book reading versus Kindles, playing vinyl versus online streaming and so I hope we will see a value being placed on having real shops to go to, be looked after and buy in. Businesses like Next and John Lewis have realised that the cost of providing internet shopping is huge and impacts severely on profits and they’d prefer people went into their shops instead and shopped in a more considered way, rather than ordering and returning multiple items on a regular basis. When it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, you can buy many products online, but do people really want to make one of their most significant

investments online

I hope we will see value being placed on having real shops to go to

without actually touching or feeling the product? I don’t think so and I think

retailers can take full advantage of that and offer things in-store that cannot be replicated online. Here’s what I’d do if Saunders KBB ever hit the high street to be

a ‘destination store’: • Embrace technology – I love VR and using it in-store combines tech with service from someone who’s taken the time to design your new room. With KBB products not being an everyday purchase, why not let them see what they’re buying from every angle and make the experience special?

• People and personality – I’ve deliberately placed this near the top, because for me it’s vital. How many of us have a favourite restaurant that we go back to because they look after us and make us feel special? I’d struggle to name a national retailer or restaurant chain that I feel passionately about.

• Stunning displays – If your showroom is immaculate with well thought-out lighting, then your customer thinks their finished kitchen or bathroom will look that way, too.

• Working models – We know how a hot tap works, but does Mrs Jones who hasn’t bought a kitchen for 10 years? Let them experience and enjoy the product.

• Project management – It’s easy to buy a product cheaper, but does Mrs Jones want to install it herself or find someone who can? A complete turnkey solution is super-attractive.

• Consolidate suppliers – I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket, but work with a small number of suppliers with whom you can have more influence, better terms and a feeling that your business matters.


“This has been caused by an unex- pected and severe downturn in sales due to the uncertainty surrounding the economy and Brexit,” he said. “Nevertheless, we have done our utmost to honour all existing orders through arrangements made with another kitchen retailer who will supply and install the kitchens to the specifications agreed and promised.” Lerner added: “After 30 years building a successful family business, during which we have supplied literally thousands of customers and established excellent relations with all our suppliers, it is obviously extremely upsetting for me and all my loyal staff that Neil Lerner Kitchens has reached the end of the line.” Neil Lerner Kitchens was a staple among the luxury showrooms lining Finchley Road, undergoing a major renovation a few years ago to make room for the complete lifestyle range from Italian brand Poliform and sister brand Varenna. The lengthy Brexit process has been blamed by many KBB retailers for knocking


Neil Lerner won’t be the last to fail because of Brexit

I was really sorry to read about Neil Lerner ceasing trading. Having been in this wonderful industry of ours for nearly 50 years, I would like to add to Johnny Grey’s comments [, December 21] on the very serious effect the Brexit debacle is having on business. We, like many other kitchen companies, have noticed a serious drop-off in enquiries and orders over the past few months. Sadly, I don’t think that Neil Lerner’s will be the last business we lose through the apparent total incompetence of our Government.

In the past six weeks

there have been two weeks when we have arrived on a Monday morning with not a single

appointment in the diary for that week. I cannot remember that ever happening before – except perhaps back in 1989/90. The Government, in its

Westminster bubble, has absolutely no idea of the detrimental effect ‘kicking the can down the street’ is going to have on the economy of the UK. They get their overblown salaries and expenses come what may. I doubt there is an MP who has ever had to rely on their wits, sales ability and cash flow, to ensure they get their salary. They do not live in the real world. Personally, for what it’s worth, having watched and listened to the completely unproductive negotiations over the past months, I am convinced that the only

solution is to revoke Article 50 and remain as we are. I just cannot see what

difference another six months is going to make to our position and that of the Government. With the almost 50:50 vote in the original referendum, there are always going to be unhappy voters. Of course, the very worst scenario will be that we continue with these terrible trading conditions until October 31 and still don’t arrive at a satisfactory resolution. The Government may then request a further extension, and drive the UK economy further into the ground. Let’s hope not.

Robert Charles, proprietor, Robert Charles, Taunton

kbbreview · June 2019

consumer confidence and putting the brakes on spending. In December, UK kitchen designer Johnny

Grey said the deterioration in his own business in the closing months of 2018 was unprecedented, blaming the chaotic Brexit process that still shows no sign of resolving any time soon.

The deadline for the UK to leave the EU was March 29, but this has been pushed back several times, and currently stands at October 31.

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