22 March 2009

The Smallbone and Wilkinson takeover looks good for the industry


The purchase of Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson to Canburg may be, to quote a well-known song, the start of something big.

From where I'm standing it is had to see a downside to this situation.

Many of the people who were employed by Smallbone PLC, the previous owners of both furniture brands, will keep their jobs.

Consumers who have placed deposits with both brands have been assured that their advance payments are safe and that one of the first priorities of the new owners is complete the existing orders.

And the design skills of Mark Wilkinson himself (seen here) have been retained for the good of the KBB market.

But the good news does not stop there. Leo Caplan, the owner of Canburg is not some misty-eyed romantic with a love of classical English furniture up to his knees in wood shavings, but a hard-nosed businessman.

Clearly he can see the potential in these kitchen companies and this is a welcome shot-in-the-arm for the KBB industry as a whole.

The appointment of Martin Warbrick in a sales and marketing role demonstrates how serious Caplan is about his new business, and hands Warbrick a challenge he will relish.

The new management team hasn't even got its feet under the table, so details are scarce at present, but Warbrick's track record of building kitchen brands with the likes of SieMatic and Christians shows what he is capable of.

The prospect of one of the UK's top furniture designers working with one of the UK's top kitchen marketers is indeed a mouth-watering one.

I don't think it will be 'business as usual' with Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson; it will probably be even better than that!

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