They’ll be back.

I mentioned how good it felt to see Homebase gradually putting back together the strong, attractive, and distinctive kitchen business they had until Bunnings tried to turn it into a barbecue shop.

I’ve heard that they’re hiring designers again – and even paying them, in some cases, the highest commission rates in the mass market. You don’t get experts just by paying them – but you can’t get them at all for nothing.

It’s still a work in progress, but it’s looking better all the time:

It’s not up to you.

I’ve seen some dodgy practice around retail finance, in my time. I’ve even seen fraud covered up by a retailer which didn’t want to lose its licence.

What I’ve seen most of is what I saw this week, eavesdropping as a designer at one of the sheds sold a loan improperly.

“It’s up to you if you want to read all the little writing,” he said. “It tells you how to cancel, and stuff.”

That’s not how it works. There are legal requirements about the information we have to give the customer, and this doesn’t satisfy them.

Why does it happen? It happens because retailers aren’t financial institutions: their training, their sales staff, and their daily processes are focussed on selling kitchens (in the sheds, a lot of cheap kitchens fast), by whatever means they need. Some of them also suffer – by their own choice – from blisteringly-fast staff turnover, which means that nobody has time to learn to do things properly before they’re looking for another job.

It’s illegal. It’s not policed. It results in customers entering into binding financial agreements to which they haven’t paid proper attention. Retailers have committed to doing this properly, and they just don’t.

Push me, pull you.

A Regional Manager at Wickes told me that their new investment – in style, as well as money – in kitchen showrooms had been inspired by Wren’s. Obviously, Wren has the money.

I haven’t seen this yet at Wren; probably will soon. It’s nice, isn’t it?

(I’d want to check the instructions on the hob over the pull-out table, though).

What are they up to now? 07/02/2020

At the start of this week, Magnet urged everyone to hurry up and buy their kitchens before missing out, and then, immediately after the deadline… made their kitchens CHEAPER.

Charming.

Then Wickes switched from half-price installation to a third off kitchens: same money, different column. The usual.

On Wednesday night, Wren stayed open until 10pm AGAIN, to make sure nobody missed out, because “selected offers” had to end (for the third time this year). After that deadline, kitchens are still half-price (as they always have been), and there’s still a blizzard of extras around them, so no discernible change. Again.

Hurry up and buy, before the price stays the same! Again.

What are they up to now? 04/02/2020

I was wrong.

I anticipated that as soon as Wickes ended its half-price installation offer, it would revert to the half-price kitchens offer which preceded it; swings and roundabouts.

They haven’t. Kitchens are a third off, plus other bits and pieces. Whether that’s better or worse than the previous offer, or the one before that a month ago, it’s impossible to calculate…

What are they up to now? 03/02/2020

I was going to wait until mid-week, for the other sheds to “end” their offers yet again – but this one deserves its own mention.

On Saturday, Magnet warned us that we’d have to hurry, because “these offers end” that very night. It was the second time already this year, and the first time, “these offers” didn’t end.

The main offer, half-price kitchens, hasn’t ended this time either – but, in fact, there are more offers than there were before the offer “ended”. The price of a Magnet kitchen has actually gone down”!

We’ll have to hurry, though, because “these offers end” yet again on the 15th.

Or, yet again, not.

Ssh.

Nobody’s ever called me gaudy. But I do think retailers should at least speak loudly about what they have, and I suggested recently that B&Q was almost trying to hide the fact that they still did kitchens.

It’s not just kitchen retailers, though. Currys is having a HUUUGE winter clearance, but they’re keeping it to themselves.

What are they up to now? 01/02/2020

Once already this year, we’ve seen Magnet urge us to hurry, because “these offers end” Saturday – only to carry on with their Sale, with the main offers not ended at all.

Apparently “these offers end” again today. But will they really? Or is this yet another example of “hurry up and buy, before the price stays the same”?

We’ve seen Wren open until 10pm twice this year, because “selected offers” had to end. The permanent half-price offer, and most of the little offers too, didn’t end at all. Apparently the same thing happens for the third time next Wednesday: hurry up and buy, before the price stays the same!

Wickes actually did end half-price kitchens when they said they would. Installation went half-price instead. That ends on Monday, after which my bet is the kitchens will be half-price again, just like they were a month ago. It’s the same money, moving in circles, just like a shell game.

It’s not lying if you get away with it.

I do go on about kitchen retailers pretending their kitchens would usually cost twice as much, or pretending you’ll lose a lot of money if you don’t buy one RIGHT NOW! I keep saying Hurry Up And Buy, Before The Price Stays The Same!

I can’t read minds. I’m assuming intention. It might be accidental that these retailers keep saying things in ways that would make a reasonable person draw a conclusion which isn’t true. I just don’t think that’s likely, and the Advertising Standards Authority tends to agree.

There are people – especially some retailers – who say, Who cares? Caveat Emptor and all that: if people are silly enough to fall for it, that’s their look-out.

I don’t think deceiving people is either clever or an acceptable way to do business, but, yes, that’s just an opinion. Some people think it is clever, and acceptable.

But some other people say that it wouldn’t be allowed if it was really bad, would it?

Allowed by whom?

Nobody actively polices retail marketing. Trading Standards can take up a complaint, and even prosecute, if you’ve been ripped off, but that’s after the fact. The ASA, similarly, will investigate a complaint about advertising – if someone complains, and, again, after the fact. Publishers of advertising will try to anticipate whether they might be implicated in such a complaint, and what the consequences might be, and weigh that against their need to sell ad space.

And what happens if the ASA finds that advertising has been misleading? They tell the retailer not to do it again. Oo-er. By that time, of course, the retailer’s enjoyed the benefit of the misleading advertising: they’ve taken the sales, thanks very much.

Offenders tend to be repeat offenders. That is, when they get caught misleading people, they adjust their wording slightly – and then tend to get caught again. It’s almost as if misleading people isn’t accidental at all.

Wren misleads on comparisons.

Wren misleads on discounts and on offer ends.

Wren misleads on comparisons.

Wickes misleads on discounts.

Wren misleads on offer ends.

Wren misleads on discounts.

Wickes misleads on discounts.