Manufacturers bypassing dealership networks?

Below is a comment I made recently on a LinkedIn forum. The complaint voiced by the original post was that some manufacturers were beginning to sell directly to the public. Please excuse the first bit of snarky commentary regarding KBIS.

Begin LinkedIn comment:

Very occasionally typos offer amazing wisdom: “recent Kitchen and Bath sow”…perfect.

To come back to the issue, however, this is a little like any other problem: it’s not the core issue or model, it’s the agreements made or broken by the parties involved that cause it.

There are advantages for a manufacturer in having their own showroom(s). There’s control of the presentation in its many subordinate issues (how often displays are changed, how tightly the brand image is controlled, whether to have public events, etc.), the quality of installation (employees vs. contractors, they each have their own issues…). There’s the assumption of both the manufactured profit AND the retail profit to be gained if the business is run properly.

There are obviously advantages to having dealers: as a manufacturer, one doesn’t have to manage the retail clients. If one chooses one’s dealers carefully, there is a steady stream of business and the plant continues to move product, the product design team continues to develop new stuff, business is fine unless you get a bunch of thieving bastards on Wall Street and in the government diluting the currency and stealing people’s homes. (oooops, did I say that out loud? damn…)

But really – if you are a dealer and your vendors change the way they do business, you just have to change the way YOU do business. Maybe there’s a reason the manufacturer has decided to change, and it could be that they think you’re the problem. This kind of thing happens.

The transition is rarely pretty…

- End LinkedIn comment –

I think we all need to rake the leaves in our own back yard, and we have to accept that some of the neighbors aren’t going to be as diligent as we are…some of their leaves are going to wind up blowing around in our yard and we have to clean them up as well. Welcome to life on Earth – it’s not perfect.

Change gives us a chance (or forces us) to re-evaluate our situation. If we are smart, and strong enough to look ourselves in the mirror, I believe we can use the situations in which we find ourselves to change for the better.

Sometimes only afterward, though; and as I said, change (the process, not the result) isn’t often pretty.

The reason I’m putting this “industry insider” comment here in a more public venue is that it has ramifications for the consumer: the issue is, I believe, a properly executed design. Unless the manufacturer has a competent design staff as well as contractors and installers to execute the design, the consumer isn’t going to get the result to which they should be entitled.

The reason the kitchen business is famous for eating the lunch of the “get-rich-quick” types is that it requires so many robust and varied competencies.

In the manufacturer’s move toward “direct” sales to consumers, it’ll be interesting to see who gets this right and who suffers gunshot foot injuries…