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With over 50 years’ experience in the component and kbb industry, Barry Berman is a figure known by many for his time as ASFI chairman. With a passion for the industry and wealth of knowledge to match, Barry is a familiar face to KBB Birmingham. We caught up with Barry to glean his thoughts on the industry, the UK market, and the importance of face-to-face events...
AL: Can you tell us a little about your experience in the industry?
BB: I started at 16 in June 1964 in the family business running a veneer cutting company, Berman Brothers panels, so I have been in the industry a long time. Berman Components, which was my big step in the business, came from us wanting to purchase edge banding etc directly. We then started to sell it, which became the formation of Berman Components as the business expanded.
We joined ASFI in around 1986, we started to grow the business and went back to ASFI again and again. They used to have an AGM, which I regularly attended, and eventually took over as chairman. I later started out on my own as an industry consultant and agent, and am now the agent for a selection of companies across the industry.
Image courtesy of BA Components
AL: Where do you see the component industry going in the next 10 years?
BB: It depends which market we’re looking at. There is consolidation going on in Italy in particular where they have had a tough time, with some smaller companies going out of business, but also some bigger companies swallowing them up. You’ve got that power house there especially if we talk about door manufacturers particularly, which means less choice. But people are always looking around at other markets to see if they can supply them, so I think that will continue and they will become stronger.
I think one of the biggest challenges is for people starting out with new businesses, that’s a danger. It is hard for smaller manufacturers to try and come into the market with a new idea. In classrooms, no kid puts their hand up and says I want to make doors or hinges, be it in the UK, Italy or anywhere. There needs to be more interest in the industry generally, to encourage young people to get into it.
AL: do you think it comes down to the industry not making the younger generation aware?
BB: partly that, yes. There are little pockets of work and support, but not enough. We’re not giving young designers enough chance; we’re not bringing them into the industry enough. We need to employ talented young designers, they can add so much. They have a fresh young mind and are so willing to learn.
Image: Legrabox by Blum
AL: How does the UK market compare to others?
BB: One of the first things I advise brands is to exhibit in the UK. The UK is a strong market now. We have 65 million people living here, and from a distribution point of view it is a very strong market. We have a relatively small island with so many people crammed into it, so the cost of distribution is low. You will never find out a market as quickly anywhere else as you can coming to an exhibition, seeing it and feeling it. You have potential customers, distributers and agents all looking at you in the same place. KBB in March next year, with the way the economy is still going to be strong, will be a great opportunity to see if you can export to the UK.
Image courtesy of BA Components
AL: Is the aging population going to drive kitchen design to change?
BB: The house building market and new build project designers are definitely thinking about it more. With the aging population, there is also an element of downsizing, people are downsizing and using the extra funds to renovate, spending money on each room, especially the kitchen. The government expect a lot of that to happen now with the pension reforms, as people can release chunks of their pension which they can then spend on home renovations etc.,
There is also the other end of the market, where landlords are choosing to replace old kitchens but with cheaper option.
AL: So we could see a pinch in the middle market as the top end benefit from the aging population and the low end from the booming rental market?
BB: Possibly. I think there could be some challenges, but the market are reacting well by bringing in affordable ranges and also higher end options as well.
Image: Space Tower by Blum
AL: Why are exhibitions so important for companies?
BB: It’s very important for the perception of a company for them to be at an exhibition, to portray themselves to the industry. You can network within the industry, with fellow companies who are exhibiting as well, and it’s also very good to meet people within your own industry, as you are looked at differently when you are a fellow exhibitor. You’re getting leads, you’re getting a chance to have that one to one time, and you are putting yourself onto the stage of the industry.
I say to people overseas that the best way to get into the UK market is to go to an exhibition. If you are trying to get into a market, maybe looking for distributers or agents, or just in general, come over to a UK show and showcase your product.
Image courtesy of BA Components
AL: Is it advisable to have a UK distributer before exhibiting at the show?
BB: I can understand that point of view, and it can be a barrier. But then if you really believe that you have got potential in the market, and understand your product, then it is always good to use exhibitions to raise awareness.
What would be your top tips for a returning exhibitor?
BB: The point of going back to, or returning to an exhibition, is to make sure you are launching something new at the show, a new product, new material etc. It should give you the motivation to go there and make a statement about something.
Image: Antaro by Blum
AL: What are the most important things to remember when exhibiting at a show?
BB: When you go to an exhibition you need to really think about the follow up, you need to prioritise the leads and break them down from most urgent to contact to least. Those you have to hit up very quickly after the show are obviously a priority.
Join us at kbb 2016 to hear more insights into the future of the industry
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