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The pros and cons of employment

Why are so many independent kitchen and bathroom retailers now looking to employ their own fitting teams? kbbreview managing editor Andrew Davies weighs up the pros and cons… 

Andrew Davies
kbbreview
Managing Editor

There is an ongoing debate among independent kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers about the relative merits of offering an installation service. The full project management approach has become more common over the last decade as retailers lean more into their USPs of service and reputation.

It’s not hard to see why, competing wholly on price is never going to deliver a sustainable business and few people are ever going to visit an independent because they think it might be cheaper than a big multiple – even if often they can be.

Independents are all about personal service, reliability, expertise and, for many, the turnkey service. This project management must also, of course, include installation and most retailers have traditionally opted for reliable sub-contractors to do that part.

But, increasingly, the idea of directly employing their own installation teams is becoming more and more attractive.

The best retailers are, in the most positive possible way, control freaks. They know that if they want to offer clients the smoothest renovation possible they need to know and plan exactly what is happening when. That coordination of design, ordering, deliveries and trades is key and by employing their own installation team they are in full control of all parts of that schedule.

It brings consistency to the quality of work too, fitters who only work for that retailer become familiar with the products, work closer with designers and administrators and represent the company in the client’s home.

So it’s clear what the advantages are for the retailer, but why would an experienced fitter stop being self-employed and go on the books as an employee?

Firstly, retailers know that they have to pay handsomely to get good people. While that salary will never match the income of being self-employed, the fitter will not have to fork out for phones, vans, tools, insurance and pension. Equally, they will get paid sickness and holiday days.

And, with the workforce getting older all the time, it simply provides a simpler life without the hassle of looking for work, sorting taxes, chasing invoices, and all the other administrative headaches being self-employed brings.

That’s not to say life as a sub-contractor isn’t the perfect right choice for many – it offers freedom and flexibility in the way an employment contract cannot. Many will not want to put too many eggs in that one basket plus even retailers with employed teams will need to draft in reliable subs during busy times.

But what this new found focus on employment gives installers is a realistic choice and a new valid perspective on how they work and for a trade desperate for new blood, the next generation may find life as an employee more appealing, at least while gaining the experience.

Either way, how this sector approaches installation is changing and those on the wrong side of that change will be the ones that miss out.

kbbreview are the official content partner for Installer Kitchens and Bathrooms 2024. To gain further insight into the current and future market, the latest trends, challenges, multi-generational design and more, be sure to visit our ‘Kitchen of the Future’ and the “Future of Water’ attractions onsite.

It’s free to attend, register for your ticket here!

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