Kitchen and bath companies have known for years that being a cabinet dealer offers tons of benefits. Now some full-line design/build companies are getting into the act. Jonas Carnemark, president of Carnemark Systems & Design, Bethesda, Md., recently discovered the difference that being a cabinet dealer could make. "We had been purchasing a couple of different lines of cabinets for years," he says, "but became frustrated because we just couldn't find what we were looking for."
So they began designing their own custom cabinets, based on the frameless European style, that would be built and installed by a subcontractor. "While this worked decently, we were going from sub to sub to find a person who could do the work up to our standards," Carnemark says. "And no matter how good they were, the finish was never as consistent as we would like."
So Carnemark approached SieMatic, a high-end cabinet manufacturer, with the intention of becoming a dealer. After negotiating with the company for several weeks, Carnemark was successful.
"There are plenty of advantages," Carnemark says. "We receive exceptional pricing on well-made products, allowing us to make a much better-than-average profit on our cabinet sales. That's wonderful. Also, SieMatic advertises consistently to the affluent consumer through magazines like Gourmet, so they attract attention from people who are exactly our kind of client. And as a dealer, we get all of the leads that come from our selected ZIP codes."
In addition, while SieMatic has cabinet dealers across the country, "our area isn't saturated like with some cabinet lines," says Carnemark. "So we have something a little bit different to bring to our customers. Because we're not offering the same old thing, we're removed from much of the competition." In return for the dealership, Carnemark had to commit to a certain level of sales. "We negotiated until we reached a level of sales that I felt we could achieve. In hindsight, it hasn't been a problem for us at all."
Typically, cabinet manufacturers want their dealers to have a showroom, which could mean a sizable investment. That's next for Carnemark, who currently uses door samples as his main selling tool. "This particular company is really working with us to help us create a beautiful showroom," he says. "They didn't make it an immediate necessity but are working with us to develop it over the course of several years."
Carnemark's advice for someone considering becoming a cabinet dealer: "Do it! It's been extremely beneficial for us," he says. But choose carefully. Find a company that doesn't have a huge presence in the marketplace and appeals to the same type of clientele as your company. The more marketing they do to the consumer to attract solid leads, the better. Then negotiate the sales levels carefully.
–Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Fulton, Md. (301) 490-5620, firstname.lastname@example.org.