Liebherr to ‘rebuild’ relationships with retailers

Liebherr has launched a new range of built-in and freestanding refrigerators for the UK market to help it “rebuild its relationships with retailers”.

At its ‘Liebherr Live’ event in Birmingham last month, it also revealed its first range of “budget” freestanding fridges and freezers, which it claimed will help it to compete with the big volume movers, such as Bosch.

Speaking exclusively to ERT on the built-in range, divisional manager for Great Britain Tim Hutchinson (pictured) said: “It’s a market that we’ve not focused on for a couple of years and we’re using the catalyst of our whole new built-in range to go back to market with kitchen retail.”

In January 2014, a fire destroyed the distribution centre of the brand’s then distributor Coolectric, wiping out Liebherr’s UK stock. This caused disruption to the supply of goods to the marketplace and triggered a chain of events that saw Liebherr take control of its own UK distribution.

The disruption meant no Liebherr goods were delivered until March 2015, which as result meant it lost display space with some of its key retailers.

“We’re trying to build relationships with kitchen retailers again,” he explained. “Renew some of the relationships that we might have lost from the days that we were out of the marketplace and we’ve got the perfect line-up of product for a decent mid to premium kitchen retailer. We’ve got combinations, sizes and variations of fridges that nobody else has got.”

Known as a premium manufacturer, Mr Hutchinson explained that Liebherr’s move into the low-end of the market was its “most significant shift” yet.

He claimed that up until now, its lowest price point for a combi fridge-freezer was around £500, whereas now it can offer models at a price point of £350-£400.

“The reason Liebherr, globally, has decided to do this is to unlock further opportunities for market share in some of the countries where we’ve got a much greater penetration,” Mr Hutchinson said. “We’ve done as much as we can in the middle and the top [end]. So to grow as a brand this is giving us the opportunity to reach new people.”

He went on to explain that for the UK, the low end of the market is really important and can’t be ignored, with it being the “most competitive price market in Europe”.

“Prices are going to rise slightly with the impact of the exchange rate and the devaluing of the pound, but there is always continual downward pressure from the UK market,” he said. “It’s a huge white-goods market, but there is a huge amount of competition. Probably caused by the fact that internet shopping penetrated the UK market much earlier than other markets.”

Even though it is described as a ‘budget range’, Mr Hutchinson stated that it is still a quality product that Liebherr is proud of.

He also claimed that this would help to expand on a retailer’s current Liebherr consumer base, as the range of appliances means more consumers can afford to buy its brand of refrigerators.

“What this gives us and our retail partners is the opportunity to sell Liebherr to every customer that walks through the door,” he added. “Currently a typical retailer might only be able to sell Liebherr to say 30% of its customers. So that’s one in three it can sell Liebherr to because it knows the other two haven’t got the budget.”

Liebherr will also be adding smart features to its BluPerformance European range of refrigerators in June, with its SmartDevice box.

SmartDevice will work with Microsoft home cloud, incorporating features such as facial and object recognition, to monitor the contents of the fridge.

Mr Hutchinson explained that Microsoft chose Liebherr as a favoured developer and selected it to be a partner of its home cloud.

“This is much bigger news than somebody plugging their fridge into the internet,” he said. “What we’re getting from Microsoft is facial recognition. So we’re going to put cameras in the system, we’re going to get object recognition, so it’ll recognise food going in and out of it. It’s all going to be automated, there will be microphones in it and we’re testing all of these cold temperature cameras now. We’re working with GoPro on the hardware and we’re working with Microsoft on the software.”