3 experts, 3 perspectives

The industry's look on extended assortments (1)

Utility room, bathroom furniture, cabinets for the living area: many kitchen manufacturers are visibly expanding their range. More turnover with extended ranges - that's the theory. And what about in practice? We asked our three experts for their opinion. Part 1 covers the supply.

Apr 20 2021

First it was utility rooms, now bathrooms are triumphing in the kitchen studio. At least if the manufacturers have their way. Carmen Tappeser, Hans Hermann Hagelmann and Leif Kania agree that whether more sales can really be made with extended ranges depends on various factors. 

Originally, extended assortments were an export topic, the BMK President confirms to us and explains: "That is because we have broader dealer structures in many countries. Dealing with the kitchen manufacturers' catalogues is flexible and creative. Sometimes other rooms are planned at the same time."

Project business, which is common in many foreign countries, is also relevant. Entire apartment buildings are furnished ready for occupancy - preferably from one source, because of the synergy effects. 

From export to the domestic market

The all-round carefree package also has potential in Germany. Leif Kania reports from furniture stores where the kitchen department with docked bathrooms proved to be a successful combination.

With a view to the current situation, however, the coach cautions: "Currently, the demand for kitchens is so great that many retailers are concentrating on their core business. It's better to do one thing really well instead of getting bogged down in the breadth is the motto." 

Carmen Tappeser confirms: "At the moment, the extended ranges are hardly an issue for us. Accordingly, furniture for bathrooms, living areas and utility rooms have ended up in side booths where no fully equipped kitchen could have been placed."

Restrained start 

Only a few customers are currently asking about the possibility of furnishing other rooms as well. Therefore, the kitchen consultant is rather cautiously optimistic: "I think there will be a market for the extended ranges, but as always, the end customer will need some time to get started.

But more and more people will attach importance to having the kitchen, sideboard and wall unit in the same style in the open-plan living area. I think in about five to seven years' time this will be included as a fixed component in kitchen planning." 

Would you like a little more?

That would be a long time. That makes it all the more important for manufacturers to now increasingly present their offer to the trade. There, in turn, the advantages must be actively communicated. But this, as the sales coach knows, is the crux of the matter: "More sales through extended assortments can be achieved with the meat counter technique 'May it be a little more? But the classic is that salespeople forget that. Yet that's exactly where I have a huge lever to increase the amount on the sales contract." 

Carmen Tappeser has already been successful in this way: "I actually actively draw attention to the extended range. If a customer comes in with a kitchen for a new-build project and the consultation is over, we talk about the other rooms. It helps that there are two bunks of bathroom furniture directly behind where I sit." 

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Carmen Tappeser has an affinity for furniture and interior design in her blood. Her mother is a seamstress in a furniture store and thus responsible for the creative side that the kitchen consultant and vintage lover also shows in her private life when she tailors her clothes. Her father - who has been working in the furniture industry for over 30 years - was and is Carmen Tappeser's role model in her profession. She likes to discuss furniture topics with him passionately. It is therefore not surprising that she turned her back on her original career in hotel management after completing her training. In 2010 she ventured a career change in a furniture store and discovered her talent for consulting, planning and sales. Since 2013 Carmen Tappeser has been working in the kitchen retail trade near Cologne. Customers appreciate her direct and honest way of communication.

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Show the offer - also digitally 

Remember: what is visible arouses desire. If there is a lack of space, it can make sense to think about digital alternatives. Leif Kania is a big proponent of this strategy: "Furniture whose benefits are closely related to the kitchen range on display is particularly predestined for digitalisation.

If it's primarily about furnishing adjacent living areas to match, I don't need to be able to touch the cabinets." For kitchen studios, for example, a hybrid approach would be conceivable. Virtual reality glasses or apps that provide additional information and make the offer emotionally tangible (!) are possibilities.

Inspire with concepts 

Even before that, marketing via online channels is becoming increasingly important. Especially when companies have an eye on the next generation of buyers. They are inspired by influencers, for example. More and more companies are therefore tailoring collections to them and thinking in terms of concepts. Hans Hermann Hagelmann is certain that "furnishing will continue to develop in this direction" and believes that even more is possible - as long as Germans are open-minded: 

"In the USA, for example, it is already common practice to commission an interior designer to furnish a house. The holistic consultation is simply part of it. The Germans, on the other hand, prefer to do everything themselves. There are inhibitions, such as the assumption that an architect is too expensive. But if this becomes established as a service in the next few years, it would be a good opportunity to sell furnishings as a package." 

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Hans Hermann Hagelmann studied business administration in Bochum and Frankfurt before embarking on a career in marketing and product management in the early 1980s. Among the professional stations of the business graduate are Pepsi-Cola in Offenbach and BASF in Mannheim. In 1990, Hagelmann switched to the furniture industry and initially worked in the supply industry. In 1999, he became a member of the management board at Nolte Küchen, and in 2001 he became managing director for marketing and sales. At about the same time, he joined the board of the marketing company A30 Küchenmeile and was spokesman of the board of AMK from 2004. He held both positions for around ten years. Since 2013, Hagelmann has not only been the owner of 3H-con Unternehmensberatung in Bad Oeynhausen and 3H-Distribution for the kitchen brands Pronorm and artego in France, but also President of the German Association of Medium-sized Kitchen Retailers (BMK). In 2017 he completed additional training as a certified business mediator.

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The question of price 

For the kitchen industry, this would mean presenting its extensive range of products even more in the form of holistic planning. But anyone who then feels like homogeneous furnishing has to ask himself the question of price. Hagelmann explains: "Furnishing a flat with the assortment of kitchen manufacturers is no problem, but it is also the most expensive option.

That's because of the basic structure. The kitchen industry works on an order-by-order basis and with an incredibly large variety of parts in the background. Elsewhere, I can simply tuck a sideboard for 129 euros under my arm. That's not possible with kitchen furniture - at least not at the moment." 

Retail structures as a hurdle? 

This is where the large-scale retailer comes into play at the latest. The latter does not have to fear for its raison d'être because of the increasingly broad-based kitchen manufacturers, says Leif Kania: "Basically, I don't think you can represent the complexity of a furniture store and its depth of goods with furniture from the kitchen industry.

But it makes perfect sense to place a kitchen manufacturer in the home furniture section. However, I have rarely seen this before and I also know that it would mean a big change for the specialised sales staff. By that I don't just mean familiarisation with planning software on the part of upholsterers, for example, but also the willingness of kitchen salespeople to advise in other, less lucrative product groups." This is probably a nut that manufacturers still have to crack for their sales with extended assortments.

When it comes to holistic planning, Carmen Tappeser also takes a critical view of the additional time required compared to the profit: "For me personally, it hardly pays off. The turnover you make with the ancillary products is rather manageable. The kitchen is one of the most expensive purchases and compared to the consulting time that has to be invested, this is where the salesperson effectively ends up with the most. Planning bathroom furniture usually takes one to one and a half hours, but only brings in a fraction of the turnover of a kitchen.

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Leif Kania is a trainer and coach for the furnishing industry, drawing on over 20 years of sales and management experience in the kitchen and furniture trade. The former managing director of a large VME company with craft and commercial training knows the problems of his customers first-hand and knows how to solve them sustainably. As an accredited trainer according to Insights MDI®, the industry expert focuses on the recognition of individual strengths, which allow sales teams and managers to reach their full potential according to their personality. The focus of the sales training courses is on type-specific advice as the key to increasing sales.
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Planning competence 

For consultants, bathroom furniture is almost as easy to plan as kitchen furniture. You just have to deal with different height requirements and with the water connections for the installations. Since I used to sell full-range furniture, I am still familiar with some of the dimensions and special features. That makes it even easier for me personally." 

Leif Kania adds: "What we have here is an expansion of the target group with almost the same skills. Anyone who sells kitchens can do the same with bathrooms. Of course, this means getting intensive training from the manufacturer, knowing the specifications of the bathroom furniture and also training the installation teams accordingly. That starts with drilling a decent hole in a tile!" 

Not all bathrooms are the same 

So will bathroom specialists have to dress warmly in the near future? For Hans Hermann Hagelmann, this is also a matter of definition: "The question is, what is the customer's requirement? After all, the bathroom consists not only of furniture, but also includes installations.

Ultimately, the customer will decide where he wants to buy. In any case, I think it is very difficult for a kitchen furniture manufacturer to compete with the big bathroom furniture manufacturers. From a fundamental point of view, bathrooms are different from kitchens and have been marketed differently up to now." 

Carmen Tappeser shares this view and adds: "A kitchen specialist cannot replace a bathroom specialist. The holistic composition is missing. For us, bathroom furniture from the kitchen manufacturer is therefore usually more in demand as a replacement." 

Conclusion 

The extended ranges of kitchen manufacturers have long-term potential. However, they are not (yet) a sure-fire success, but must be increasingly brought to the market and actively sold there. The existing price and trade structures could prove to be an obstacle here. Those who want to make more out of their offer should think holistically and use the opportunities of digital marketing. Because both are already well received by customers today. 

How you can get even more out of extended assortments in terms of planning, you will learn in the next part of the industry outlook. The experts give design tips and discuss modern living concepts, cooking trends and upselling.

Author: Christine Piontek

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