Although HAAS+SOHN Rukov has only been around for a year, it's definitely no newcomer for the store. This time we spoke with Josef Starove, who has held the position of sales director since May 2020. We asked him a few questions:
The beginning was strange. Nobody knew how customers would behave in uncertain times and what season we should prepare for. Production capacity also decreased slightly at the beginning of the pandemic. However, it turned out that a lot of people did not go on vacation and started home renovations and improvements instead. Of course, this also affected our stove sales. Overall, we evaluate the past season very positively. We managed to increase turnover year-on-year, depending on various countries, from 10% to 50%. We have learned to find new ways of communicating with our resellers. For almost half a year, their business had to be closed or a ban on business negotiations was issued. So, it was time for telephone, e-mail or video calls. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to meet a lot of customers in that year and we only know each other virtually. Building business relationships has been and will be difficult for some time to come, but not impossible.
There is a big difference between a B2B and a B2C customer. Different situations and requirements are solved with each of them. With our sellers, we mainly deal with delivery dates, prices, transport, contracts, etc. Their technical knowledge is very good and rather individual, deeper technical questions are resolved. There is also a regular training of our dealers are also given regular training, where they are introduced to news and their technical parameters. We rarely meet the end user, most often when buying spare parts or warranty service. The overwhelming majority of our stove sale to the end user are done through our dealers. They have the task of consulting the end user's requirements, helping with the selection of suitable stoves for their premises and, if necessary, ensuring the stove installation itself, for example, the chimney construction. The expertise of our dealers is key. The end user decides to buy the stove for the first time or after many years. A lot has changed since then and customers' demand a lot of information.
End user trends and demand change annually. We monitor in detail how the sales of individual stove categories are developing, such as tile stoves, stoves with an exchanger or pellet stoves. Sales numbers vary from year to year, making it difficult to estimate which stoves will be in demand in the current season. In the case of colour variants, it is even more unpredictable. One year the shade of brown is popular, the following year it's ivory. There is also a difference among the countries. We know that fireplace inserts have a greater tradition in Poland. In Slovakia, tiled stoves. In the Czech Republic, a stove with an heat exchanger. However, demand also varies according to a customer's location. Stove popularity differs in the foothills from those in larger cities.
I'm optimistic and I believe that COVID will no longer affect us as it did in the previous season. Rising prices of input materials are a much larger threat. The increase in prices, for example, for steel is enormous, and we must respond by raising prices for the end user. Although, even a high price does not guarantee the availability of materials. However, we want to maintain such a business model for our customers whereby we have most stoves available in stock and we are able to ship them in a few working days. I expect possible outages in the supply of stoves, but these will be units of cases and we will try to plan production as efficiently as possible and cover demand in the coming weeks.
Thanks for the interview.
Thank you too and I wish you all a beautiful summer!