Friday, 21 October 2011

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Beware of the double dipper

Philippa Turrell, Editor
Kitchens & Bathroom News
Buckle your seatbelts; it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride. No sooner have we seen the back of the ‘R’ word, global economic experts are suggesting we get set for round two. Something about PIGS – I believe – but not to blame the pork industry.
It could spell more trouble ahead for the kitchen and bathroom industry, which has already seen its fair share of business woes, with the recent financial difficulties at the low end of the market -  Focus DIY and Homeform – and premium-end market too at Simon Bray.
There are also recent shake-ups and uncertainties in the distribution chain, Mark Two suffered with the loss of the Focus DIY business, then got hit again by the demise of Dolphin. There have also been changes at Waterline, MD Mike Lawrence having resigned due to ill health, and unspecified alterations to the BCG business. Although, again, it is suspected it may be a change to personnel.
It could also be that parent company of BCG, Wolseley, has listed the company as one of 19 to sell or improve. Although it is unknown which Wolseley companies are still on the hit-list, industry pundits suggest BCG has been included alongside Bathstore. Could this distributor be set to join the likes of Electric Center and Brandon Hire which have already been hived off? And if so, who would be the likely buyer? There has already been talk of a management buyout but could an acquisition by a competitor be far more likely?
Oddly, though, while there are changes at supplied level, kitchen and bathroom retailers and designers appear to be flourishing. Those who are active in the world of social media have been reporting a flurry of orders, many of which are reported as unusual for this time of year. So, is the pull-through of sales just taking too long, as consumers take more time over making decisions to part with their cash? Or is this a retail anomaly, as consumers get in quick, before the next wave of financial fears, with little to back up orders after that?
While I certainly don’t advocate a ‘Chicken Little’ panic that ‘the sky is falling in’, I would suggest we all keep one eye on the future, while not taking one eye off the past. Don’t forget the valuable lessons you’ve already learned and should there be a second stalling, you’ll be better prepared for that icy dip.

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