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KITCHEN RETAILER PROFILE | Haus of Design


Frustrated by the limitations of selling budget British kitchens in a crowded local market, entrepreneur Amir Kamiabi has switched to upmarket German and Italian brands and created a luxury showroom to match. kbbreview asks whether the change of approach is paying off


the outskirts of Stockton-on-Tees. But it’s the modest surroundings that make this destination store really stand out.


H


What also helps the impressive frontage stand out is the fact that it is clad in the same Graniti Flandre tiles that luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton uses on its flagship Italian stores.


“This is the kitchen capital of Teesside!” owner Amir Kamiabi laughs as he greets me at the entrance. “Portrack Lane is the place to be for business. There’s nowhere else like it in the North-East. You’ve got B&Q, Magnet at the top of the road, Wickes, Homebase, Howdens… then four independents a stone’s throw away. There’s a good 15 kitchen companies just on this estate. But if our building was at the top of the road, what I paid for it would be what it cost for a year’s rent, and then half again in rates.” Originally, Kamiabi admits, he was happy to compete in the same crowded pond as his many competitors, fighting for margin at the budget end of the market. But as the business he launched in 2008 developed, so did his strategy.


Switch


Five years ago, he eventually ripped out his British furniture, switched to German brands Schüller and Next 125, then added Aster from Italy, and reinvented his offering. This also meant scrapping bedrooms and bathrooms and focusing on higher-end kitchens. “Before that, we were losing money on jobs,” he explains. “The suppliers weren’t helpful, they were hindering. Just through lack of service. You weren’t buying from a kitchen company, you were buying from a warehouse. They didn’t care. So I put these three German kitchens from Schüller in and all of a sudden people were coming in saying ‘ooh, this is nice!’ ” But that didn’t stop Kamiabi’s competitors saying he was mad to go upmarket and target high-net-worth clients. “Everyone told us it was a massive mistake,” he admits. “But there are very affluent areas here. It’s just mind-sets. People say there’s no money in Teesside, but we just want a sliver of the cake. When you’re selling kitchens for a hundred grand, you don’t have to sell many of them! And we wanted to do something we enjoy. It’s no fun when a fitter wants more money than you’ve charged for the kitchen.” Kamiabi’s background as a property developer has also helped. It’s how the business started and means he’s been able to tap into affluent nearby locations, such as the prestigious Manorside development at Wynyard Park. Turnover in 2018 was around £1 million, but this is expected to double this year. And now, after


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aus of Design isn’t the sort of kitchen studio you’d expect to find hidden on an unassuming industrial estate on


Amir Kamiabi


what’s been a turbulent period of refurbishment and extension, he can boast the sort of showroom any Wigmore Street designer would be proud of. Not that it’s been a straightforward process. The


whole place has just undergone a major 10-month refurbishment, extending it to 2,400sq ft. “I was taking clients to Starbucks,” he laughs, “but we opened again last October.” So far, the investment has reached £350,000 and there are plans for a second phase to include offices and storage space, which will extend the store by a further 1,500sq ft. But instead of the original 14 displays, there are now just six to maximise impact. ‘Build it and they’ll come’ seems to be the mantra – but spell house as Haus and give it all a bit of a German feel and you’re really on to a winner. Kamiabi admits his background isn’t in design, but


kbbreview · June 2019


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