Danny Hamilton was washing his car for the third time that week — he was getting very bored without a job — when he heard on Ray Hadley’s Sydney radio program that Kleenmaid had collapsed.
Hamilton lives on Sydney’s northern beaches where Kleenmaid had, and still does have, a phenomenally high market share, 23 per cent apparently, and his first thought was that he had lost the warranty on his own kitchen.
As he listened to the radio, Hamilton heard Hadley interviewing franchisees that had lost their business and savings, customers that had paid cash and never received their appliances and families that now needed to buy a new kitchen because Kleenmaid could no longer provide after sales service.
There is no disguising the obvious — the Kleenmaid collapse in April 2009 was a disaster — and Danny Hamilton concedes that it has been not easy to reboot the brand since purchasing it from Deloitte later that year. The tide is turning, however, and the new Kleenmaid has big plans for 2014.
“It’s been five years and I don’t think too many people connect us with them anymore,” he said, referring to Andrew and Bradley Young, the former directors currently facing criminal charges in a Queensland court.
“You can’t fix it and you can’t make Google go away — you have to live with it,” he said.
Kleenmaid appliances have been sold through the cabinet retail channel since Hamilton’s Compass Capital Partners relaunched the brand. The product is made in Italy, though Hamilton wouldn’t confirm which manufacturers, and are designed and engineered with local input by projects and commercial manager John Biddle.
In advance of the rollout of the new Black Krystal range of premium cooking appliances, Hamilton is ratcheting up the public relations and looking to increase the Kleenmaid’s retail footprint. Currently, Kleenmaid is sold through 41 cabinet retailers on the Eastern Seaboard, and while new outlets are coming online this month, there is no coverage west of the Great Dividing Range. The product is sold via the pro forma model, similar to Miele’s Chartered Agency system, so there should be no discounting.
“We’d love to be in more retailers but you have to earn your stripes,” Hamilton said.
With appliance retailers chock-full of appliances from the hundreds of cooking brands, Hamilton knows that getting into a Harvey Norman or a The Good Guys store means another brand must be taken out.
“You can have 10 brands that nobody has heard of and you have to tell the story from the beginning or you can have a brand that somebody has already owned, or their parents have owned. You might have to tell a story that it went broke and it’s back — is it easier to sell that or something that is completely brand new?
“The pricing is tremendously better than it used to be. Kleenmaid was very expensive — I bought it — it was much more expensive than it should have been. It is much better value now: I paid $8,000 for my oven, it’s $4,500 today. It’s much more accessible.”
Whether the Kleenmaid brand deserves another chance is up to the market to decide. While vitriol still exists in those burnt by the Youngs, this is a new operation that is completely separate, Hamilton says, and it shouldn’t be blamed for others’ failings.