1 March 2010

When good enough is not enough

Is this the time to launch a high-end, high-spec, high-price range of appliances? V-ZUG of Switzerland must think so; it has just set up a UK company to do just that.

According to Brian Groom in the FT on 7th February, B&Q has benefited from middle-class customers spending £6,000 for an all-in kitchen with a marble worktop, rather than spending up to £15,000 at an independent vendor.

While Mr Groom's comments scream questions to me about what sort of quality of kitchen one gets from B&Q for an all-in price of six grand, complete with marble worktop, there is no doubt that Jo Public has become more cautious about their kitchen purchases.

And it is possible to get a kitchen with the look if not the longevity from a superstore at an apparent lower price than an independent retailer offers.

Of course, it pays to make sure that like is being compared with like in these arguments, as even with marble worktops the range of qualities available is considerable.

There is always a place for the less expensive version of a product. If there weren't we'd all be driving around in a Mercedes. But Mercedes still sell cars in respectable numbers to those who want to buy a quality vehicle and are prepared to pay a realistic price for one.

This is obviously where V-ZUG wants to fit in. With ambitions to set up a 30-strong showroom network in the UK, it is clearly going for quality rather than quantity. And to answer my original question, its timing could be perfect.

The middle market dominated by independent showrooms is in a bit of a fix at the moment, as the improving quality of entry-level kitchens makes it more difficult to justify the price-point it has traditionally charged.

Lower quality kitchens may be good enough for a lot of people, but when good enough is not enough, the only way is up.

The air may be thinner up at the top of the mountain, but with its Swiss heritage, V-ZUG could feel right at home up there.

V-ZUG is one of 300-plus exhibitors at kbb Birmingham 2010 taking place on 21-24 March at the NEC in Birmingham.

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