New Zealand-owned cooking appliance retailer Kitchen Things has launched an interactive showroom in Newmarket that incorporates seven working kitchens and a bathroom.
The Kitchen Things Luxury Collection showroom, which opened in July 2018, began as a dream held by the chairman of parent company Jones Family Business, Mark Jones.
Its origins lie in the Jones Family Business’s ‘microwave shops’ which were popular during the early 1980s. These demonstration-oriented spaces were intended to help shoppers come to grips with then-intimidating microwave oven technology, and were an unquestionable success – the company ended up with 40 percent of microwave sales in Auckland.
Today, Jones says, families from the demographic targeted by Kitchen Things Luxury Collection are time-poor and looking for high-end products to address this. Technology like blast freezers and steam ovens allow customers to “live how they will in the future”, says Jones. However, such products are necessarily different to older, more familiar home appliance technology, and shoppers need to be introduced to them in detail – which is where Kitchen Things’ interactive showroom comes in.
At the Kitchen Things Luxury Collection showroom, customers will see only the latest technology on the shopfloor. They can work with a cooking tutor to learn all about it: “You’re not going to stand and watch, you’re going to put on an apron, and sit down and taste the food afterwards.”
“We’re teaching people how to live in the future,” Jones says.
The site at 26 Morrow St, Newmarket, was originally an engineering workshop. It needed two years of extensive rebuilding before it was suitable for Kitchen Things’ purposes – a new front, new roof, new electrics and floor were all required.
Architect Matthew Godward of Godward Guthrie Architecture says the Jones Family Business asked for a unique, high-end luxury “working kitchen” showroom that maximised customer experiences by activating as much of the product as possible, allowing users to test and sample product in a live setting.
Incorporating seven main brand kitchens and a bathroom - Smeg, Asko, Bosch, Neff, Gaggenau, Subzero-Wolf, and Miele plus Robertson Bathware – was one of the biggest challenges, Godward says. He explains that each brand’s supplier had different requirements, and their installation needed to adhere to a set of aesthetic design guidelines and parameters around height datums, signage and various spatial parameters in order to achieve a cohesive design configuration for the overall showroom’s identity.
This was “time-consuming and intensive”, but a good result was achieved through open and clear collaborative communication and dialogue between all parties, which ensured that no unpleasant surprises occurred.
“There were so many parts to this jigsaw puzzle,” Godward says. “I think everyone understood that to achieve a world-class result… it would take time to get it right.”
For Godward, the way the lighting brings the project to life, and the steel frames’ effect on the space are stand-out results from the project.
“The harmony of the old rustic concrete shell with the new fitout and cohesiveness of the space is very pleasing.”
The inclusion of the bathroom amongst the seven kitchens is about broadening the product range for customers’ convenience, says Jones. When people do a renovation or build a new home, he explains, they’re looking for more than just cooking appliances. Bathroom fittings, lighting and furniture are also part of the picture. As a result of this insight, all of the above are on display and for sale at the Kitchen Things Luxury Collection showroom – but there’s not a price ticket in sight.
“Everything in that showroom is about solution-finding – it’s not about price,” Jones says.
Such is the company’s commitment to bending over backwards for its high-value customers that it will fly them up from the South Island.
“You can spend three, four, five, six hours [shopping in-store], whatever it takes,” Jones says. “You can go through in one location and choose the best things.”
Jones says its product offering is complemented by Kitchen Things’ top staff, who are handpicked from its 19 other stores around New Zealand. None work on commission, and all have plenty of expertise in the products they’re selling. They’ve even been professionally trained in hospitality skills such as coffee-making and table-clearing.
“We’ve gone through the finest details,” Jones says. “There’s not a single thing we haven’t focused in on.”
The company doesn’t necessarily see a quick return on the significant investment that the showroom represents, but Jones says it’s important to be patient.
“The key difference is to give an ultimate experience, and be prepared to do that even a year out from when the customer makes a decision.”
“We’re happy to wait for that, we’re not about the sale today.”
Jones says the innovation on display at the Kitchen Things Luxury Collection showroom is a taste of what’s to come for the rest of the market: “It always starts at the top and moves into the mass.” The concept will be rolled out into Wellington or Christchurch over the next couple of years.
“Unless you can deliver experiences, your business will fail – then, you’re competing with online for the lowest price.”