As the new year unfolds, Furniture News took time to speak to Simon Ainge, sales director at Kettle Interiors, to see what has been happening with the supplier over recent months, and what can be expected from one of the UK’s most talked about furniture wholesalers.
Kettle’s focus on service must put a lot of pressure on your supply chain – how do you accommodate an even wider service package for retailers?
We know that retailers need to be able to service their customers seamlessly and that the buck absolutely stops with them. Their customers will perceive any broken promises as the fault of the retailer, even if it is the wholesaler or supplier that has let the retailer down, so reliable service is just as important as the furniture itself.
Service starts with stock. Without it is hard to provide retailers with reliable and fast delivery on even the most basic level. Relying on overseas supply or furniture in transit to fulfil small orders simply isn’t acceptable and so we now make sure that we have an extremely high stock level right here in the UK, even with a portfolio of over 250 different items of furniture. We see stock as the foundation of our service.
With the stock in place we are then able to serve the retailer, and hence their customers, in the best possible fashion by providing a full range of services. As with anything of this nature, laying the foundations and ensuring the services are right takes time and it has been a behind-the-scenes activity for a good while. It is only now that we feel ready to provide a fully comprehensive package to all our customers, whether new or existing and I guess that’s why it seems we have introduced a lot over the last few months. In truth, it has been a while in development.
So what can you now provide retailers looking to partner with a supplier that tries to accommodate their needs?
First we are a wholesale furniture supplier, supplying with free delivery from just ￡500, but consumers often demand far more than furniture in just a few days, and we need to help the retailer respond to this. With regular coverage of the entire UK, most wholesale orders are fulfilled in a few working days but we also have a range of even faster services.
Express delivery in just 24 hours with online tracking and using industry-leading couriers is just one option. We’ve also a special two-man service that will deliver and install furniture on your behalf. Using our own highly trained staff and dedicated transport we call this our White Glove delivery service, as it really does offer a level above and beyond what most people expect from delivery. Retailers can also print PODs straight from their computer giving them peace of mind that their customer’s order is complete.
Kettle used to have a reputation for its competitive bulk order services. Is this something you have now abandoned for wholesale?
Absolutely not, these services with pricing breaks at ￡4000, ￡8000 and ￡18,000, are still important to us and still represent the very best value for retailers capable and willing to hold stock. In truth, it is a relatively risk-free way to do things as all of our furniture ranges are proven and so for many retailers it is still their preferred way of working with us. That said, flexible wholesale supply is definitely increasing in demand and so we want to make sure that we can be everything to any retailer, no matter how big or small their requirements – or store rooms – are.
You are well known for big launches at Interiors in Birmingham, what have you got up your sleeve this year?
A few years ago we would have launched at least two or three new furniture collections at the show, but recent years have seen us reduce this quantity in order to refine our existing portfolio and boost stocks right across the collection.
After all, there is only so much furniture retailers can offer and we now have a very strong core of collections covering oak, pine and painted in a range of traditional and contemporary styles. And testament to limiting our amount of new collections is that last year’s launch, the Farmhouse collection, has been our most successful ever.
This year we are adopting the same philosophy and are only launching one new collection, but it is an absolute corker, with a total of 62 items.
The Oakham range is a stunning heavy oak collection, with thick tops for an air of quality and a beautiful and true matt lacquer finish that gives it a soft and warm look.
However, what really impresses with Oakham is the depth to which the collection goes, with several versions of the most popular items, to ensure that it can meet the demands of even the most particular of customers. For example, Oakham doesn’t have just one coffee table, but three different options and there are numerous dining tables including large, small, a round table for six people, a 1.1m butterfly extending table and a huge 3m long extending dining table for up to 10 people.
The range covers living, dining and bedroom and we expect it to be hugely popular right from the very off. Retailers visiting Interiors will be the first to see production samples of the collection with orders being fulfilled just weeks later.
After Interiors, what can retailers expect from Kettle Interiors for the rest of the year?
Well, just what they have come to expect from us in previous years. We’ll be continuing to look at how we can provide even better service than we do now, a task that is becoming harder and harder each year as our service improves, as well as making sure that our furniture is of the very highest quality. Small changes to production and finishing can have a huge impact on the end result and so we are working hard with our suppliers, as well as at our own facility in Vietnam, to make sure that our furniture is the best it can be.
Other than that, we will be making sure that we continue to be a reliable and flexible service partner for our nationwide network of retailers, offering value and quality with everything we do. We are really looking forward to making 2013 great for everyone that works with us.