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By Damian Walters, BiKBBI Chief Executive:

You may have read in a kbbreview article that a so called ‘row’ has developed regarding the topic of installation and installers.

kbbreview columnist and independent retailer Trevor Scott of Rugby Fitted Kitchens branded comments that I had made about installer pricing as being “very unhelpful”.

What Trevor was referring to, was my presentation at the Conference, held at kbb Birmingham recently, where I shared some findings from research carried out with installers.

“I was very disappointed to read Damian Walters’s claims that installers don’t want to work for independents,” Scott said. “He alluded to us retailers not being well organised enough and not good enough payers, saying ‘money talks’. Well thanks, Damian, that’s really helped loads…” said Scott.

Unfortunately, there are some inaccuracies that I’d like to address.

Firstly, I never said (or suggested) that installers didn’t want to work for independents, nor did I say that retailers were unorganised?

In fact, I said that research had been carried out on behalf of the industry, to better understand the reasons why some installers choose not to work with retailers.

The purpose of the research was to help retailers understand the reasons, in order to make an informed choice around their respective installation models. Let me be clear – I think retailer led installation is a good thing and one we [BiKBBI] already support.

The research revealed that cost did play a part in the decision making for some installers and I’m, quite frankly, surprised that anyone would be shocked by that – especially someone of Trevor’s experience?

Notably, my speech at the conference didn’t restrict on the subject of money. The research revealed that installers want better relationships with their retailers and more installer friendly and reliable product.

More recently, Diane Berry of the award-winning retailer Diane Berry Kitchens, sparked further debate when she said that retailers who use sub-contracted installers are “cheating”.

Diane, who employs her fitters, criticised retailers who choose to sub-contract. “It infuriates me that this industry doesn’t commit to its tradesmen and that cash work is still a thing with creditable companies – all hidden by the kitchen fitters working directly for the client.” Said Berry.

Whilst I think Diane should be applauded for her installation ethos (as she clearly values her installation service and those installers responsible for delivering it), I must say that the employed route isn’t the only route.

Sub-contracting the workforce is a perfectly acceptable model to adopt, as long as you truly embrace those installers you work with.

It doesn’t affect the consumer in any way negatively, as the retailer still has a legal obligation under The Consumer Rights Act (2015) to deliver the service, whether they employ or sub-contract their installation business.

I guess the difference is where retailers don’t sell an installation service but recommend customers to third party installers. Whilst I still think this is ok, I cannot fathom why a retailer would take the risk and not the reward (or control). Especially considering the fact that even if you only recommend an installer, you still have a legal obligation to fulfil.

Whether you employ or sub-contract, my point is that you should truly embrace installation and bring it into your business, not treat it as a necessary evil. Those businesses who do, like Diane’s, are testament to how great a fully integrated installation model can be.

As for Trevor, I have nothing but admiration for people like him. Delivering a great service to his customers and operating a respected business.

All I would say is that we really shouldn’t fall out. We’re on the same side!

But Trevor should accept that, whilst research doesn’t always reveal what we want to hear, the results should be embraced with a view to develop a fair deal for all.

Finally, keep up the great work Diane. As for you Trevor… I love you man!

Thanks also to Tim Wallace at kbbreview – the fact installation is in the news is a GREAT thing so keep us in mind and lets see some more healthy installation debate.

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