By Patrick Avenell in Melbourne
How long can an entire industry hold a grudge? That’s the question that was put to me when I spoke to company representatives today on the Kleenmaid stand at Grand Designs Live.
It’s now been almost three years since the original Kleenmaid organisation, headed up by the Young brothers, collapsed under the strain of millions of dollars of debt, causing much anguish amongst its franchisees and business partners.
The brand is now up and running as a new company after Compass Capital Partners bought the business from Kleenmaid’s original administrators. Danny Hamilton, the CEO of Compass Capital Partners, knew the Young brothers through their membership of the same church and retained their services as consultants as recently as the early months of 2012.
Despite this affiliation, Hamilton has stressed several times that this is a totally new company with a new business model, specifically the cabinetry industry.
When I raised these concerns with Kleenmaid staff at Grand Designs Live, the brand’s controversial history was rejected with passionate intensity.
“Danny Hamilton is a good man, a courageous man, an Australian trying to run a business,” said the staffmember I spoke to. “It is a different company – how long will people keep going on about this?”
It’s a fair question. For example, we don’t hold the business that purchased the WOW Sight & Sound brand responsible for that retailer’s demise. Nor do we hold a grudge against the old BSL stores that reorganised themselves into the much more successful Betta Stores Retail group.
The answer lies in guilt by association. When the Young brothers have been completely and permanently extricated from the new Kleenmaid business, then people will start to judge Compass Capital Partners on its merits.
That’s an industry-specific response – for the consumer, it appears, all is either forgiven or forgotten. The Kleenmaid stand, while small compared to Miele’s, Ilve’s or Fisher & Paykel’s, was still attracting a significant crowd.
For those visitors who commit to a purchase of $3,000 or more during the show this weekend, Kleenmaid will throw in a free dishwasher. Those that spend over $4,000 receive either a free Breville bench mixer or Scanpan cookware set.
The Kleenmaid stand was attracting considerable interest, especially in its Elevator Oven, which was a finalist at 2012 Australian International Design Awards.
A potential customer checks out a Kleenmaid kitchen design.
An example of the promotional material being distributed on the Kleenmaid stand.