Ikea, Schmidt, Socoo’c… their unstoppable techniques to sell you an increasingly expensive kitchen

“Within a radius of about ten kilometers there are 14 brands that sell kitchens. And yet we do it very well!” Florent Lavillat, manager of the SoCoo’c store in Epagny, the vast commercial area of ​​the northwestern suburbs of Annecy, has reason to be pleased: in the first quarter – exactly from January 1 to March 16, the anniversary date of the start of the first curtailment – sales are up 43% compared to the same period of 2020. Not only are there more customers, they are also spending more. “Two years ago the final bill was around 5,500 euros per kitchen. Today we are around 6,700 euros with household appliances and installation,” says the happy trader.

It’s not just in the affluent Haute-Savoie prefecture that kitchen designers are having a good time. “Once the lockdown ended, sales jumped 40% in June and the pace is maintained,” said Christian Sarrot, secretary general of National Union of Kitchen Equipment (Snec). Result? Despite months of closure, the market remained stable at EUR 3.5 billion in 2020 to become the cozy centerpiece of the home, says Laurent Blum, Managing Director of Schmidt Groupe, the industry leader. But the passion we’ve seen over the past few months is quite exceptional!”

Locked up for weeks, we all cast a fresh, often hard look at our environment… Between the desire for a warmer interior and a renewed taste for small home-cooked dishes, many of us dream of a beautiful kitchen, chic and functional: 1 in 20 households also plan to take action within 12 months. And we are willing to pay the price: last year the average allocated budget increased by 4% to 3,100 euros for all circuits together and even by 6% for specialists (5,944 euros). But not easy navigating in the jungle of proposals.

The price of two beautiful kitchens that are nearly identical to the eye can go from simple to double without really understanding why. So what are the cheap versions hiding? Are the high prices of specialized brands justified? Between visits to production sites, expert analysis and in-store testing, Capital takes stock.

Let’s start with the entry level. In this segment, Castorama, Leroy Merlin or, of course, Ikea (the country’s largest kitchen retailer with more than 100,000 units a year) promise glossy stoves for less than 2,500 euros (excluding installation and household appliances). How do they keep such prices? They first focus on extreme standardization, with tight collections (10 to 20 models) kit furniture, which they can mass produce in low-wage countries, with subcontractors in Eastern Europe, and in Turkey (Ikea has its own Polish factories). The brands also play on the quality of the materials used, with thin chipboard (16 millimeters thick, or even less) and “hardware” (hinges, sliding doors, etc.) often bought in China.

In order for the model to work, they need volume. “Because our offer is simple, we can complete an order in an hour,” says the seller of a Brico Dépôt in Hauts-de-France. At Ikea, everything is organized in such a way that the customer does most of the work at home: with efficient 3D software you can design your kitchen down to the smallest detail without any problems. Once in the store, the reception is of course neat, but the consultant only has to quickly check the plans, make a few suggestions and that’s it. A global system that would offer attractive margins to our distributors: several professionals assured us that they were over 30%, but it is impossible to get confirmation from those involved, the subject is top secret.

To distinguish themselves, high-end specialists have an important asset, personalization. Three manufacturers and their franchisees compete for this core market: the Alsatian Schmidt (541 million euros turnover), with its 600 Cuisinella and Schmidt stores; the Savoyard Fournier (335 million) with his 480 SoCoo’c and Mobalpa; and the German Nobilia, which delivers including But, Ixina, Cuisine Plus and AvivA. They all sell expertise and an individual offer, for projects from 2,500 euros, but often closer to 6,000 euros and more. “We make custom industrial versions thanks to highly advanced manufacturing algorithms,” explains Christophe Giachetti, Fournier’s technical director.

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A visit to the Thônes site (74) provides insight. Here, 650 employees make more than 300 kitchens every day, all different. The raw materials, large chipboards that are thicker than those supplied by our kit sellers, arrive in a continuous flow from the factories of the Austrian Egger (manufacturing in France) and the German Pfleiderer, two leaders in the sector. In different colors they scroll on a maze of conveyor belts to be cut, polished and shaped… And finally, at the end of the line, put together like a kind of Lego, with the pieces that go with it. Between the arrival of the wood and the loading of the kitchen mounted on a truck, it takes three days for hundreds of possible combinations.

A know-how that advisors appreciate in the store. “It’s an assisted selling market, like telecom,” explains a veteran of the business. It’s imperative to trust the customer for a very plentiful supply.” The seller’s mission? Above all, we sheet the ship, to prevent it from going to the competition, and if possible to encourage it to spend. The sellers have every interest in this as part of their compensation depends on the amounts signedThe whole secret is to convince the buyer that, even if the check is larger than expected, it is he who, depending on the initial budget and his aesthetic options, designs “his” kitchen.

Consultants spend as much time as they need (two and a half hours on average) and can count on highly effective 3D editing software to spark new desires. You can try out everything, colours, materials, extractor and hob models, drawer layout, lighting or trendy accessories (heat-sensitive tap, connected fridge, etc.). “The game is to suggest the customer take as many boxes and sliding doors as possible, says our longtime veteran. Because our job is to make furniture, that’s how we make our margins.” What about household appliances, whose prices ultimately differ relatively little from chain to chain? “It is mainly used to give small discounts.” It’s called cooking, and we like it…

How much does a kitchen cost…

Leverage

As the trend is for matte black, Asian suppliers manufacture synthetic resin sinks. Very cheap, but not very shock resistant.

Granite resin is in vogue. The result of a mixture of acrylic resin and quartz powder, the finish is smooth, the surface does not scratch and the colors are stable.

All brands in this segment offer faucets from the German brands Grohe and Hansgrohe, known for their impeccable reliability.

The work plan

In laminate, ie a stack of kraft paper sheets embedded in a thermosetting resin. The printed paper layer on the surface may cause scratches.

The increasingly common so-called “reconstituted” stone, a mixture of silica and glue, is shock and heat resistant. Both very stylish and easy to maintain.

The trending material is Dekton, designed by the Spanish company Cosentino. Based on glass and porcelain, it is as resistant as natural stone.

to shove

An article not necessarily very strong in this range. If the drawers are not treated with care, the padded closures will last barely more than five years.

The kinetics are small, particularly robust and durable roller guides. The Austrians Grass and Blum are the two best-known brands.

The interior of the drawers is systematically personalized using modular partitions in noble materials such as painted metal, Securit glass or raw wood.

The furniture

The chipboards for the kit furniture boxes are thin (16 millimeters at the maximum, 8 millimeters at the bottom of the furniture). Cheap hinges come from Asia.

From the mid-range, the chipboards are thick (19 millimeters) and are cut to size. The hinges are often Austrian (Grass, Blum) or Swiss (Krono).

The millimeter-shaped units are also equipped with integrated LED lighting and small electric motors to open the upper storage area.

the facade

The premium models are generally made of laminated wood, a bonding of thin strips of wood that can be sensitive to moisture. The surface decoration is a printed paper.

The facades are in laminate and sometimes in medium (light wood fiber panels glued with resin). Brands offer dozens of color variants.

The coatings are lacquered, glossy or with a velvet touch, with anti-fingerprint treatments. Customers can request any color.

appliances

At the entry level, it is possible to find complete equipment for less than 1,500 euros with brands such as the Turkish Beko or MDD (GoodHome at Castorama).

It costs on average 25% of the price of the set. Kitchen designers offer a choice of built-in models from major established brands such as Electrolux, Siemens or Whirlpool.

With integrated extractor hoods, double door refrigerators and other flexible induction hobs (which adapt to the size of the pans), the bill quickly exceeds 5,000 euros.

The different segments correspond to those of the Snec (National Association for Kitchen Appliances). The price ranges are indicative and exclude household appliances and installation, increasing the bill by 25 to 30%.

Budget less than 2,500 euros (Castorama, Brico Dépôt, Lapeyre, Ikea, etc.).

Budget between 2,500 and 8,500 euros (Cuisinella, SoCoo’c, Darty, etc.).

Budget between 8,500 and 18,000 euros (Schmidt, Mobalpa, Arthur Bonnet, etc.).

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