Home appliances: The future of retail business

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Norbert Klein with appliances

By Victor Adar

A brand store is one of those things that will really add value to a business. In this era of cutthroat competition, Norbert Klein admits that the big idea in opening a showroom is to capture future customers today. The head of region for Turkey, Middle East, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (now called Russia) at Bosch knows too well how such a strategy can boost sales and strengthen customer loyalty.

“When it comes to building up of our brand, one of our strategies is a brand store,” he points out. “In a normal retail shop, you see many brands and other products with no one to help you especially when you need good advice. For us it is not only to sell but also to do brand building. It’s about the, ‘what’ is our assortments and why should customers buy from us? With a store you have an opportunity to meet someone who would explain a product.”

The store, located at Nairobi’s The Oval House in Westlands, is quite vibrant that even a casual visitor would have no trouble noticing it. Here, consumers can test and purchase appliances from Bosch’s entire home range of appliances like the series 8 and 6 gas hobs with FlameSelect, and series 8 ovens. For the choosy lot who would reinvent their kitchen every day, the VarioStyle bottom freezer, with a choice of 19 easily interchangeable coloured front panels, will not disappoint. 

Until three years ago, Bosch was mostly focusing on South Africa, Morocco and Egypt but it then saw vast opportunities in other African countries. Apart from the East African market, which is the company’s first aim at the Sub Saharan Africa market, a clear plan that led them to West African region to countries like Siera Leon, Angola and Nigeria, is also, seemingly, paying off.

To Mr Klein, the only way to have a profitable brand in the market is to give it time while laying out strategy. They started by building the brand through local retailers. That’s why in the past (and even today) consumers are able to purchase a range of Bosch appliances at Hot Point Appliances, Game stores, Carrefour and at the Village Supermarket.

“It looks like now is the time to invest,” he says. “We are aware that it will take time in order to be successful in sub Saharan region. You cannot come into a market and then in two years you are making money. It is long term. We invested (in Kenya for example) because we see there’s a demand for our brand. We are not afraid of competition we are also not desperate to earn money.”

So patient Mr Klein is that he believes that their brand is strong, and will soon be successful and penetrate markets in other counties apart from Nairobi and Mombasa.

For a company that has been in appliances business for decades, another area that is becoming increasingly attractive is real estate sector. Mr Klein says focus is not only on creating brand awareness but also partnering with property developers whereby once apartments are complete, for instance, they come in to fully furnish them. At the moment, the company has 46 projects valued at Sh50m ($500, 000) running in Kenya, working on not only high-end apartments and bungalows but also malls.

But is the company targeting just the big boys? Not at all, as one of their interesting approach lies on smart products, such as the Bosch FreshBox, which is a low-cost, off-grid chiller, specifically developed for remote areas in Africa. The stakes are quite high across the markets, from the bottom of the pyramid to middle class, and high-end. When you go to the market and buy something fresh like say, milk, vegetables or meat, chances are that the products may go bad by the next day, and they may only be fresh by evening if you are lucky.

This chiller is now expected to change lives of people in remote areas in a way that was once unthinkable. It keeps food fresh without electricity and under optimum environmental conditions (hot and dry weather) thanks to the internal temperature of FreshBox that can be reduced by up to 15°C when compared to the outside temperature. Actually, it keeps food up to four times fresher for longer and results in fewer trips to the market, reducing food waste at the same time by using just one or two litres of water in total – you simply pour water into that box and through evaporation the box cools down.

“This is something which we thought would be an important approach to new market segments. It was developed as a direct result of intensive customer research in Kenya and Nigeria, and will be sold in Kenya under our Bosch brand. We will go into rural areas and see how it works. We’ve just started so it’s very early but I can tell you the reaction is great. I will go to those areas and see how it works.

“The purpose of our company is to improve the lives of our consumers day by day. We not only improve lives of consumers who have money and can buy, but also improve lives of people who are in rural areas. That’s why we launched blue box,” says Klein.