It’s difficult for us not to be biased on this question. But let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of buying your kitchens and bedrooms from either of the two. Let’s begin with the national chains.
Several major names will probably spring to mind. They often have large showrooms in major cities, with easy access, and a multitude of displays across huge showrooms and usually they offer attractive financing deals. Also, national chains usually have mass advertising coverage on TV, national radio press so most people would have heard or know of them. Bearing all this in mind it is made easy for the potential buyer to make a trip to the national retailer in the first step to buying their dream kitchen. So, why think twice about buying from one of the `big boys`? Well, In the first instance you might be put off by the lack of experienced staff on the showroom floor, most chains will employ people from outside the industry and train them on the job. More often than not the designer you deal with will be incentivised by commission and he will have only one thing on his mind when dealing with you – how much is in it for me? – and the most common issue with national chains is the question of who will fit your kitchen, the most important criteria when buying a fitted kitchen. The product you buy maybe good value for money but all that value may be lost if the fitter makes a bad job of it. Why would the fitter do a bad job you ask. Again, the answer is to do with incentive, it is in the fitters best interest to finish your job as soon as possible because most likely he will be on a tight schedule and a fixed price meaning corners may be cut. But what if the fitter does make a bad job of it you would think that the store would bend over backwards to rectify the situation? Alas, the answer is usually no, the blame will be passed on and the customer service department will probably help to make things worse! Your kitchen should get finished eventually but is it worth the risk. Take a look at the various reviews of the big stores and make your own mind up, there are often as many good reviews as bad ones making your odds fifty fifty of getting a good job done!
Why the independent then, Do they have a good product range? Are they big enough to cope with my kitchen project? Will the designer be able to impress me with his skill? Are the fitters they use experienced? Will I get good after sales experience? Will I get value for money?
I have to say yes is the most likely answer to all the above. Independents will more often than not deal with various national manufacturers who specialise in producing good quality kitchens and bedrooms with large product ranges, covering most styles and designs available. An independent should be able to handle any size job because the showroom staff and fitters invariably know each other well and how each other works so they should be able to coordinate and liaise on any job large or small. The designer that works for an independent may or not be on commission but his brief will be different. He will want to do the best design he can for you and make sure it works because he will be looking for the recommendation from you on having done a great job. Although the great job would not have been possible without the fitting team. This team have usually worked for the company for years and know the pitfalls of fitting kitchens and want to get paid so any problems that arise are usually sorted out before the end of a job and of course they want you to tell your friends about what a great job they have done! Value for money depends on the end result and not on the initial cost but an independent supplier is more likely to cost a job realistically from the start.
Recommendation is the lifeblood of independents and there is no greater incentive to make sure they do a good job. Good after sales is equally important and handling an unhappy customer for whatever reason is an opportunity to make it more likely that the customer will trust and recommend you in future.
In conclusion, we need to pass the buck over to you and ask the question – What do you want from a fitted kitchen/bedroom supplier? Short or long term gain and who is more likely to give either?