Big box retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot sell more full-sized kitchen appliances than anyone else in the country, but this doesn’t necessarily make them the best places to buy them.
According to Consumer Reports, national chains have begun turning off some customers due to a perceived lack of service and selection. This dissatisfaction is leading those shoppers in part to local, independent appliance dealers, who apparently have a competitive advantage despite their size. Or maybe it’s on account of it.
We recently talked with Ken Rieman Jr. of Custom Distributors to get a clearer idea of what his regional appliance distributorship is specifically doing to give service-starved buyers a better option.
A Higher Quality Shopping Experience
One of the most obvious differences can be seen in how merchandise is displayed in the store. Big box retailers tend to only present their appliances in long, somewhat impersonal rows than can make it difficult to focus in on any one unit. In comparison, Rieman proudly mentions “our showrooms are actually comprised of many fully-functioning mini-kitchens, providing customers with the ability to completely experience the appliances in an immersive, real-world setting.”
Variety Is the Spice
Major retailers commonly stock products from a half-dozen manufacturers, with any one brand represented by a limited number of different models. By comparison, Rieman reports that Custom Distributors boasts 52 brands across major and small appliances. As a result, this wider product selection makes it possible to offer a better array of options across all price points, designs and sizes. Included in this mix are a good number of domestic and foreign brands that typically aren’t stocked by mass merchants.
A Liaison Between Homeowners and Builders/Designers
Rieman likes to point out that unlike the chain stores, Custom Distributors’ customer base extends beyond homeowners to also include builders and interior designers. This results in showroom sales reps that are much more versatile in their ability to address the specific needs of each group. When an interior designer or homebuilder sends clients to Custom Distributors to select their appliances, there is a higher degree of confidence that the sales reps will assist the homeowners in selecting options that best fit the designer’s plan and the homeowner’s budget.
Installation & Delivery
According to Rieman, a proper installation is critical to the long-term performance of a new appliance. Like so many other household goods, large kitchen appliances have grown more complex due to their sophisticated electronics and engineering. It stands to reason that installers must possess a growing array of technical skills just to locate and properly connect the appliances.
Unlike the large chains, Rieman says Custom Distributors eschews sub-contractors in favor of their own factory-certified delivery and installation teams. “Having our own people handling these functions helps ensure greater quality and reliability in the service itself.” To underscore the importance placed on factory-certified installers, Rieman reports that SubZero/Wolf and a handful of other luxury brands will provide an extra year warranty on any appliance installed by their team.
After The Delivery Truck Leaves
What small, independent appliance dealers do well after the sale are in many ways just as important as those leading up to delivery. Custom Distributors maintains a Custom Care Center that personally assists in setting up service, addressing customer questions, setting up payment and coordinating all communication. It’s a personalized one-point-of-contact system that Rieman suggests the bigger dealers can’t possibly maintain.
Custom Distributors also presents a regular series of on-site cooking demonstrations and classes to help ensure that customers get maximum use and satisfaction from their new appliances. Staged from a large, on-premise teaching kitchen, the classes mix cooking techniques, appliance operation tips and generous servings of food. Led by the company’s own full-time in-house chef, Kathy Damm, the classes help underscore Custom Distributor’s desire to keep personally engaged with their customers well after the purchase.