Quooker’s dealer-first business strategy Why it pays to invest in supplier-retailer relationships

Quooker has built a reputation over the past decade amongst the UK’s independent KBB showrooms, for creating and sustaining meaningful supplier-retailer partnerships. In fact, its entire business approach has been built around this ‘dealer first’ model; a strategy that has been instrumental in the company’s impressive and rapid growth. Stephen Johnson, MD of Quooker UK shares his thoughts on why it pays to invest in these relationships and the pitfalls that surround business that do not.

The relationship between supplier and dealer is and always has been a complex one. There is rarely a time where a supplier or retailer is not under some form of external pressure, be that a financial crisis, Brexit or a global pandemic. Yet it is a relationship that is crucial to get right.

At Quooker we see our dealers not as separate businesses but extensions of our own sales team. After all, they too host customers, display our products and drive sales of taps nationwide. We expect them to present our products in the best way and sell as many as possible. In return, we offer them a huge amount of support year-round. It is a two-way relationship with loyalty expected from both parties. Put simply, if your dealers are happy, your business will fly.

Since helping launch Quooker UK in 2006, my growth strategy for the business has revolved around driving single tap sales to individual customers whilst delivering a world-class service. Unsurprisingly therefore, I have always put huge value on our dealer network to help achieve this. Whether showrooms are selling thousands of units per year or one a month, every sale is equally valued. As such, each dealer no matter its size, gets the same level of support and service.

What does that support look like? As everyone’s business is different, so too is each relationship. The complexity comes because you must work with a host of different people and different business models. There is no magic formular, only by understanding each business individually can you deliver a bespoke approach that works for both parties. Flexibility is king. This is what we pride ourselves on doing. A practical example of this is in POS material for showrooms. Rather than providing one fixed display, we work with each dealer to build bespoke displays that work for them, investing in co-branded material that suits the individual space.

I make it my mission to be as accessible as possible to dealers and ensure my team do the same. We regularly pop into showrooms and speak to owners, not to catch anyone out, but to make sure we are doing everything possible for them on the ground. We also run dealer incentive schemes to reward achievements and to keep motivation high. When it comes to training, we offer thorough programmes to ensure dealers are fully equipped, but also offer virtual sales assistance should customers want to talk to us directly from showrooms. I also make a point of personally handling all review sites so I can pick up on any customer dissatisfaction as quickly as possible and help dealers address any errors locally.

We try to make their lives as easy as possible. That’s why we don’t rely on dealerships to promote our products but invest millions of pounds each year into national advertising to educate the consumer before they even get through the showroom door. Once the product has been sold, we take the hassle off the dealer and employ our own service engineers to sort installation and maintenance. We try to add real value to our dealers.

Throughout lockdown we offered all dealers sizeable financial support packages with prolonged debt freezing to help ease pressure. We invested multiple six-figure sums into organisations like the KBSA to help drive customers back to the high street, whilst offering dealers free regional advertising to help drive showroom footfall. We also invested in industry futureproofing initiatives with the BIKBBI to keep existing installers on the road and to train up the next generation of fitters, ensuring dealers experience as few bottlenecks as possible. Looking forward, as trading conditions continue to be volatile, we have guaranteed dealers price certainty and heavily invested in UK stock to ensure plentiful supply.

These activities come at huge financial cost to our business, but we take our responsibility seriously. Lots of KBB companies talk a big game but we actually put those promises into practice and work tirelessly to ensure the independents are as protected as possible. Our desire to support the dealer at all costs remains the same, regardless of the external pressures in question.

We appreciate that the growth Quooker has enjoyed is one of the reasons we can afford to be so generous. But it is cyclical. If dealers help us sell more taps, we can continue to invest in advertising and wider industry support initiatives which help in turn to drive people into their showrooms. The more dealer loyalty we get, the keener prices we can give them. Everyone wins.

One of my biggest frustrations with dealers is around the lack of awareness about exactly how much we offer. Dealers can be quick to complain about manufacturers whilst not realising the levels of support and personal cost involved to be able to offer it. That is why good communication is imperative.

It is a challenging environment to nurture the supplier-retailer relationship. Securing and receiving dealer loyalty takes time. The reality is you have two businesses competing which makes it tricky. Both must learn to rely on each other for it to work. Neglect those dealer relationships at your peril.  For suppliers starting out or looking to improve this area of their business, the best advice I can give is to develop your dealer relationships whatever the cost. Happy dealers equal happy suppliers. To do it well revolves around trust, hard-work and a common approach. Define your product USP, back it up with excellent service and empower your dealer network to drive sales.

Quooker now has over 4,500 dealers across the UK. During the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 our business grew 100% YOY. Whilst we are entering a slightly slower growth period, our ambition over the next two years is to double again in size. It is only through the continued support of our fantastic dealers this is even remotely achievable. We continue to be incredibly grateful for all their hard work and are excited about what lies ahead.

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