Influencer Interview – Helen Lord, Founder of the Used Kitchen Exchange

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Trend-Monitor’s Kitchen Purchasing Trends Consumer Insight 2018 found that one in five new kitchen installations are replacing kitchens under four years old and we asked Helen Lord, founder and director of the Used Kitchen Exchange, how this trend is helping to drive her business

Interview by Emma Hedges

 

TM. Is the trend that was established by Trend-Monitor in the recent report something that you have direct experience of?

HL. Absolutely!  Around 30% of the kitchens we sell are under four years old. Sellers cite many reasons for replacing a relatively new kitchen, the most common reasons being extending their current property or moving house. Kitchens are such a large, considered purchase for most homeowners that they only really start to think replacing the kitchen after a life-changing event – a growing family, downsizing, or retirement.

Interestingly, when we speak to these sellers, the general feeling is that they are relieved that their outgoing kitchen doesn’t have to go into the skip.  This thought makes them feel very uncomfortable, often leading to general inertia or delays in decision making –  the fact that we can re-sell it for them gives them the validation they need to make this important decision.

TM. Is this trend helping to drive your business?

HL. Yes, for sure! The trend for people to extend their homes and the desire to have the kitchen of their dreams when money and time allows keeps us very busy!  What is important to mention here is the desire to ‘do the right thing’ and re-sell their outgoing kitchen is not just about money. Very often we hear people say that they want someone else to have the benefit of it, or their conscience is pricked by the desire to avoid adding to environmental landfill.  All this makes UKE a genuinely sustainable business that meets a genuine need.

TM. What impact do you think this trend is having on the kitchen market as a whole?

HL. I think it is safe to say that people are more empowered these days to change their kitchen to meet their lifestyle needs. In the past when the kitchen has been a separate, functional room in the house, the priority to change has just not been there – sticking with the notion ‘it will do’.

We have become far more house proud and the way we use our kitchens has completely changed. Now they are a status symbol, something to be proud of and as much part of home décor as the soft furnishings and furniture. The kitchen is much more than a living space in today’s home. It is a place to entertain, relax and enjoy family life. Therefore the desire to have the perfect kitchen is much higher on people’s priority list.

I think it is safe to say that people are more empowered these days to change their kitchen to meet their lifestyle needs - Helen Lord, Founder and Director of the Used Kitchen Exchange @usedkitchenex Click To Tweet

TM.  When did you set up the Used Kitchen Exchange and why?

HL. Used Kitchen Exchange began from my kitchen table, literally, with my own search for a new kitchen. I was looking for an affordable luxury kitchen and after lots of fruitless trips to kitchen showrooms I began looking on eBay. We were lucky – after a long search we found our perfect pre-loved kitchen at an amazing price, however, it was challenging as many sellers didn’t give the information I needed to make an informed choice. I soon realised that there was a sustainable business opportunity here – to help people buy and sell approved used kitchens without the hassle and risk associated with buying online.

Over the last six years, our business model has developed, focusing on providing a safe and hassle-free marketplace.Our website has grown exponentially and now receives over 80,000 buyer visits a month, resulting in kitchen sales of around 1,300 each year.

The growth of our business has been fully supported by the kitchen industry. The industry has welcomed us with open arms, appreciating that we offer a valuable service for their customers in providing an ethical and profitable solution for a used kitchen – a form of ‘trade-in’ similar to the car industry. We also offer the industry a solution to selling ex-display kitchens quickly and easily. We are very proud to say that we partner hundreds of UK kitchen showrooms and feel very much part of this dynamic and forward-thinking industry.

TM. Which kitchens are currently most sought after from the Used Kitchen Exchange?

HL. Our buyers look for value, often coming to us for one style of kitchen and then buying something completely different. Buying a pre-installed kitchen obviously comes with some level of compromise and our persona group is all about ‘the deal’! Likewise our buyers look for quality and longevity, so wooden kitchens are a clear favourite.

TM. Do you think that consumers are becoming more aware of changing trends in kitchens?

HL. Open-plan living means that it is no longer a room you can shut the door on when guests come over! To a large degree I believe that the availability of ‘ideal home’ imagery through social media and glossy magazines has brought a previous non-existent awareness to the public of the wide variety of kitchen styles and fashions available – put it this way, 10 years ago I didn’t have a clue what a Shaker kitchen was!

With Pintrest, Houzz and Instagram, homeowners can easily visualise their own space and develop a very clear understanding of the look they want – this has only been possible in the past few years.  This has led to a change in the way people buy – people now do their research before they walk into a showroom.

With Pintrest, Houzz and Instagram, homeowners can easily visualise their own space and develop a very clear understanding of the look they want- Helen Lord, Founder and Director of the Used Kitchen Exchange @usedkitchenex Click To Tweet

Fashion and trends do affect our business but we do tend to be a few years behind the kitchen industry for obvious reasons. For instance, five years ago almost every other used kitchen seller was seeking to replace their 1990’s Cathedral Arch kitchen for a high-gloss one! Likewise, the trend for certain styles of kitchen really help us to target our marketing through key words and sort mechanisms on our website.

 

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Recent consumer research by Trend-Monitor looks at kitchen purchasing trends 

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