Celebrating its 40th year of serving the UK market, Häfele offers a host of innovative furniture fittings, accessories, hardware and ironmongery to trade and B2B customers, supplying over 25,000 stocked products which range from its industry-leading Minifix connector, to the Loox LED furniture lighting collection and the AluSplash aluminium splashback.
PBM spoke with Steve Davies, National Sales Manager for Resellers with Häfele UK.
Q: How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
I joined Häfele fresh out of college in 1982. It’s my first and only employer, which says a lot about the business. I started as an apprentice in the transport and buying department before later moving to buying and a product management role. There I became more involved with big accounts and suppliers to the kitchen trade.
In this role I found my love of working with major accounts such as Travis Perkins, Screwfix and Toolstation, and spotted an opportunity for us to work better with such companies. Many of these merchants were creating kitchen showrooms that rivalled the high street and it was clear that by working closely, there was the chance for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Out of this our National Trade and Retail department was born in 2018. The department is still in its relative infancy, but this year, we’re placing a renewed focus on builders’ merchants across the UK, of all shapes and size. As a result, our team has become the Reseller Team and I’m now responsible for a team of five who are dedicated specifically to this market.
Q:How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
I feel that merchants have woken up to the opportunity kitchens present. One kitchen sale equates to bucket loads of sand and cement in terms of margin. Of course, heavyside sales are their bread and butter, but showrooms are another great revenue stream.
Currently, merchanting feels like an ever-expanding market. One reason being more consumers and pro-DIYers are now shopping at these traditionally trade sites.
We’re seeing more merchants investing in bricks and mortar, opening branches up and down the UK, but also making their branch interiors more welcoming in appearance. It’s becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace, and in turn a more visible one, which again only increases the reach of these sites to new customers and a wider demographic of shoppers.
Q:What has the particular impact of COVID-19 been on the business, and what (permanent?) changes have been implemented?
Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has brought us challenges, most notably with supply. As we stock around 25,000 products, we’ve had to be close to the market, making sure we have the right products in the right quantities. Fortunately, we have a huge distribution operation that has allowed us to maintain continuity of supply as much as possible. We’ve also done a lot of work within our customer support team, so that if we can’t get hold of a product, we’ll always have an alternative suggestion. This has been particularly key as the home improvement market has thrived during lockdowns and meant our customers can keep up with demand and income opportunities.
While COVID-19 has brought so many challenges, in a way, it’s forced us to reconsider how we do things; to go back to basics and think about how we can give the best service to our customers. Out of this, we’ve launched new services like our Lighting Design Service but also restructured what was our National Trade and Retail team to give more focus on merchanting.
We’ve also spent a lot of time learning about how to improve our communications through virtual channels. And while we hope things will be different in the near future, we’ve all realised the efficiencies of not travelling for meetings and how much we can get done remotely, so we expect a level of virtual meetings to continue in the future.
Q:Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
After 39 years in the business, you might expect me to say on a beach in Barbados and you’d be partially right. But joking apart, I still hope to be here running a successful reseller team and bringing a fantastic merchant offer to fruition.
For more information on Hafele, go to: https://www.hafele.co.uk/