Promoting energy efficiency

SteveMacdonald

Steve Macdonald, managing director of Hoover Candy UK’s Freestanding Division

Is the industry doing enough to promote energy efficiency and what could/should manufacturers be doing differently, asks Steve Macdonald, the managing director of Hoover Candy UK’s Freestanding Division?

Although the energy label has been a common sight in showrooms since its introduction in 1995 it really only gives the consumer an ‘at-a-glance’ evaluation of how efficient an appliance is. Using this to decide which is the best choice of appliance however, is less straight forward.

Manufacturers can help with clear POS messages that explain what the benefits are and point out that actual energy consumption can differ significantly between products that have the same rating; for example fridge freezers can have the same energy rating but can cost more to run because of their size.

Retailers can do their bit as well, as a one size fits all approach often doesn’t work. Messages need to be tailored to suit individual personal circumstances and finding out about a consumers house, their family and how the product will be used in real life can help with product selection.

The European test standards applied by manufacturers can be very different from the way in which consumers use their appliances; in the case of washing machines the test for energy efficiency is based upon a 6kg 60°C. cottons cycle, when we know that many consumers have larger capacity machines and wash much of their laundry at 40°C. or even 20°C..

Although both manufacturers and consumers are starting to understand the importance of energy efficiency, as an energy-hungry industry, there is always room for improvement. At Hoover Candy for example,we invest a lot of resources into improving our constantly evolving eco-friendly technology and product development.

Education and information

According to a recent study conducted by DEFRA, standby usage is estimated to cost the UK householder £50 to £86 per year.  Manufacturers have a duty to inform consumers about this and encourage them not to leave appliances on standby when not in use.

At Hoover Candy we have a number of products (including our dishwashers for example) that have an audible alarm to signal when a cycle has ended. This provides a reminder to users when the wash is finished, thus encouraging them to switch their machines off.

It is absolutely the responsibility of manufacturers to spread the word about resource consumption as well as the costs that can be incurred by disregarding this issue.

Making it clear

A recent report by Mintel supports the view that consumers are concerned with energy efficiency issues, claiming that 74% of respondents believe that an appliance with an energy rating of A+ is essential.

But when it comes to actually parting with hard cash whether this can be translated into sales of more efficient products is another matter. Undoubtedly some consumers are prepared to pay a bit more for energy efficient appliances but for others affordability at the point of purchase may seem more important than long term payback.

It’s these consumers that need more convincing and it’s here that the retailer can really help by demystifying and explaining what the energy label really means and helping to clarifying what’s good, bad and average and equating this to cash savings

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Wickes kitchen would not work

Tina Riley of Modern Homes

Tina Riley of Modern Homes

In response to Russell Buckley’s blog re incorrect measures and designs I felt obliged to tell my recent story, writes Tina Riley of Modern Homes.

I had some lovely clients come into the showroom clutching their plans from Wickes that they were about to place an order with, but on a recommendation from someone they called into see us. After a quick pricing exercise it became apparent that even allowing for the substantial ‘discount’ available from Wickes we would save them some money.

We then started to discuss the plan, I mentioned that possibly with a family of 5 a single built under oven would not be sufficient for their needs but was told that the Wickes ‘designer’ had told them that that they did not have room for anything else. I commented that I also thought only having one 500mm drawer within the design was a problem, and we also discussed an island arrangement shown on the plan.

I was then invited to do a site visit. I was keen to do this as experience has shown me that often other people’s measurements can vary considerably and anyway I always prefer to get a feel for the room and décor etc..

Imagine my surprise then when the first thing I saw on entering the kitchen was a double oven in a tall housing!  A quick count up revealed 5 working drawers in the existing layout but then confusion – I couldn’t see where the island would be.

“Are you re using this space or having an extension,” I asked? No, this space, was the reply. “So where is the island going? Oh here… So you are losing your table and chairs?” No we are having a larger one !!

At this stage I resorted to the masking tape and having measured out and marked on the floor where the potential island would be we discovered it would leave them 400mm space between their sink run and the island and no room for the table and chairs.

It is at this point that I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or bang my head against the wall. These are intelligent people but seem to have just been influenced by the substantial ‘discount’ structure rather than concentrate on the design.

The story does end happily. We supplied and fitted the new kitchen with double oven, plenty of drawers and, having asked the correct questions as to any problems with the existing layout, the addition of a pull-out table in the top of a unit to add more worktop space, better access into the corners and additional units in the dining area to integrate the two rooms.This was all achieved at a lower price than the existing 50% off price.

I suppose my question is how do we, as independent retailers, get the message over to clients that the final price is not the be all and end all and if the design doesn’t work then it is a very expensive mistake to make.

Tina Riley took over the family business from her father and will be celebrating 45 successful years of Modern Homes in 2013. The family ethos remains as Tina’s son Daniel, an award winning young designer, has now joined the business.  Tina became a board member of the KBSA this year.

Consumer protection message still vital

Graham Ball, CEO of the KBSA

Having been involved in the KBSA for many years I have heard enough stories to know that there will always be unscrupulous businesses and trades people out there trying to make a quick buck, writes Graham Ball, CEO of the KBSA.

The KBSA and other trade associations and organisations such as Trustmark want to help consumers make the right decisions and avoid rogue traders wherever possible but it does not always work.

Many will remember Vance Miller, arguably Britain’s most notorious ‘Rogue Trader’. Vance’s company ‘Kitchens’, based in Oldham, Lancashire, was the first ever business to receive a Stop Now Order from The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) back in 2002. This effectively told him to stop delivering poor quality kitchens to unsuspecting consumers.

It is therefore no surprise but sad to see a recent news item about a kitchen fitter from Plymouth that has been prosecuted for fraud, having sold a £10,000 kitchen that was never going to be delivered to a customer.

I do not know all the details of this case so cannot comment but it is unfortunate that all of the expert advice and essential guidelines published by the KBSA and others could not avoid this situation.

It is a timely reminder that our work is never done and we must continue to communicate as widely as we can the very important messages we have to help consumers and keep rogue traders at bay as much as possible.

The digital revolution means that we have many more channels of communication now than we did in Vance Miller’s day.  We are busy utilising all of them and I would urge anyone considering allowing a retailer or a tradesperson into their home to visit the KBSA and the Trustmark websites.

Graham Ball is the CEO of the KBSA. The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) brings together over 300 fully accredited, UK based independent, retailers. Each KBSA member provides all the expertise required to design and install a new or updated fitted kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or home office.

Magnet makes a measurement mistake

Russell Buckley

Russell Buckley of Stuart Henry Kitchens

A customer came in to my studio last week armed with a Magnet kitchen plan and 3D drawings, writes Russell Buckley of Stuart Henry Kitchens.

The customer asked me if I could give her a price based on what Magnet had planned. I did this and the price came in £3k cheaper for better quality cabinets. I told the customer that before placing an order I would need to check the measurements myself as I never trust another person’s room dimensions.

I went out and measured the kitchen and was absolutely astounded (but not surprised) that the measurements that Magnet had taken two weeks earlier had measured the room over two foot longer on one wall than it actually was, plus there was a boxed in lintel that had not been accounted for. And then to top it off, the actual ceiling height would have left the extra tall larder units in the void space between the kitchen and the bedroom above.

I did not make the assumption that this had been previously measured by a ‘professional designer’, thinking that the measurements could have been taken from an assumed architect’s drawings or even taken by the customer themselves. So I asked: “Had Magnet actually been out and measured this room and if so was all the work complete to as it is now?” The customer told me that the Magnet designer had measured up and that all the work was complete.

I’m not making this up; I actually have a copy of the plan in front of me. Using the Magnet plan would have meant the customers range cooker being installed over the doorway from the hall, and on the opposite side where the breakfast bar is situated, people would be sitting on stools with their backs up against the larder unit behind them.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is why there needs to be some legislation on who is allowed to take responsibility for measuring, planning and designing peoples’ kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.



Russell Buckley has been in the kitchen industry since 1983 and has worked for major multiples, some high end independents and has had his own family run kitchen studio for six years. He maintains his own blog at: www.stuarthenrykitchens.blogspot.com

Will latest business bank proposal help KBB business?

Graham Ball, CEO of the KBSA

Vince Cable has now confirmed that the government will create a state-backed business bank that will lend £1billion of taxpayers’ money via banks and other financial institutions, writes Graham Ball, CEO of the KBSA.

Whilst the idea was welcomed when it was first proposed earlier in the year, it has received a mixed response now that more details are known.   It has been criticised because it will bring together existing schemes that have been intended to boost lending and failed so far.

The director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned that if the funds are channelled via the existing structures then they will not reach those in need and that a more direct link with the customer is required.

Recent evidence certainly seems to bear this out.  Project Merlin should have distributed £76 billion to smaller firms in 2011 but missed its targets by £1.1billion.  The loan guarantee scheme, which offered banks up to £20billion of government security, created only £2.5billion of lower rate loans for small firms.

A cynic could say –  have we not all been here several times before!! It would appear that the Coalition has had several attempts to get money into SME’s, but every initiative has been a complete failure.

Not all the details are available about how this scheme will be different and the bank will be structured.  There are plans to attract private sector investment as well that could boost the amount of money up to £10billion but  that remains to be seen as no private investment has yet been confirmed.

Even if the scheme is successful and does release the whole £1billion it is probably nowhere near enough.  It has been estimated by the BCC that the gap between bank lending and finance could be as high as £59billion by 2016.

However the FSB has welcomed the announcement.  They are hopeful that this could possibly be the first step to creating a Small Business Administration, which is something they have been lobbying for and would be welcomed by many KBB businesses.

It seems that the government is in agreement that small and growing companies are unable to obtain the loans they need on reasonable terms, hindering a business-led recovery. It would be far better if they actually produced some positive results – rather than keep promising  something new.

The seriousness of the situation does mean that we really do need something that will deliver money for SME’s and not just more words from a Coalition that simply does not appear to understand what business in this country needs.

Graham Ball is the CEO of the KBSA. The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) brings together over 300 fully accredited, UK based independent, retailers. Each KBSA member provides all the expertise required to design and install a new or updated fitted kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or home office.

For further information please visit: www.kbsa.org.uk/

Welcome to Blogs & Comments on the kbb Ldn website

Grahame Morrison

Grahame Morrison

Welcome to what we hope is going to be one of the most-used features of our new website.

Blogs & Comments replaces the Speakers’ Corner section on the old kbb website and it is being hosted on WordPress – a world-leader in blogging technology – so that users of the kbb website can respond more easily to comments posted here.

Think of it as an on-line version of a magazine’s ‘Letters Page’, but a super version of it where responses to your comments could be swift and unedited but never anonymous. (Please note that while we  will do our best to eliminate any offensive replies to comments, UBMplc is not responsible for the content of any replies that are published.)

We hope the comments will be many and varied from across the KBB sectors, rather than just being used by the web editor to post his views on the market.

If you would like to share your thoughts on life, the universe, or even kitchens, bedrooms or bathrooms, you will find a few guidelines here and we look forward to hearing from you.

So ladies and gentlemen of KBB-Land, the floor is yours…

Grahame Morrison
Web editor – www.kbb.co.uk