One of five global honorees in the 2016 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) — Kitchen Shop in Malaysia — is out to help people live more healthily while also taking care of the environment.
Next year, Katrin BJ, the Malaysian holding company for 25 homeware and kitchen retail specialty shops in Malaysia, including Kitchen Shop, House of Presentation (HOS), La Gourmet Shop, WWRD Boutique, BBQ King and Brabantia Shop, will be celebrating an impressive 35 years in business.
Katrin BJ is owned and run by savvy co-founders, Mr. Basri and Ms. Jean Yeap (thus the name of the company, BJ — which is a mix of Basri and Jean). This year in Chicago at the IHA Global Innovation Awards, it was Kitchen Shop’s time to shine. Established in 2008, the store is one of the holding company’s youngest offerings.
Being loud and bright, fancy, design-driven, über-modern or environmentally friendly are all ways to stand out from the crowd in the tough world of retail, but it’s none of these things alone that Kitchen Shop relies upon for its ongoing success. Its message and aim is actually quite subtle – hidden in the details of the carefully selected goods that the store stocks. Kitchen Shop doesn’t need to shout out its standpoint to the world, as its customers discover, after using the quality products, what the business is all about. And that is, health, and the environment.
Kitchen Shop is based upon a dual philosophy that not only highlights Ms. Yeap and Mr. Basri’s well-proven understanding of sound business, but also showcases their love of healthy living and the environment. Which combined, result in happiness. The business is all about sustainability and providing a store and an environment that encourages and inspires customers to embrace a healthy lifestyle. The co-founders believe that through family and friends coming together and cooking, and through choosing the right products to do so, people can not only attain better health, but also help protect the environment.
This dual philosophy paved the way for the store becoming one of five honorees at this year’s IHA Global Innovation Awards, asserting it as one of the best stores in the world.
“We were so surprised,” says Ms. Yeap with heartfelt emotion. “I had tears in my eyes, and I was shaking when I went to the stage to accept the award. We didn’t even have a speech ready as we had no idea that we would win. There were so many other great retail stores competing with us. However now, looking back, we should have been confident, because we know that the store is a great success and the business is based upon great, solid principles. And we have a very loyal client base who really believe in what we do and what we offer.”
“The process of applying for the gia award gave us time to reflect,” adds Mr Basri. “You can become so caught up in whatever you’re doing every day when working in retail, but when answering questions about your store while filling out application forms, detailing your philosophy and how you operate – it makes you stop and think, and understand why you are doing what you are doing.”
A few years ago, Mr. Basri read an article about gia and thought: ‘We can win that. Kitchen Shop is a winning shop.’ He was right. The gia expert jury and industry judges (from home and housewares retail publications across the world) applauded the company’s approach to retail, and were very impressed by the company’s dedication to their staff and training. Kitchen Shop attracts some of the best retail staff in the country because people have heard about how well they are treated and the benefits they enjoy – such as healthcare, training, reward programs and great incentives.
Staff members are also offered lots of support in their quest to help customers. For example there’s always a manager on duty at Kitchen Shop’s headquarters, so that staff can call for urgent advice, also during the weekend. This means that solutions can be provided instantly, speeding up the process as well as generating high customer satisfaction. There’s even an IT care line, so that staff can call for urgent advice for things such as the internet not working or a computer malfunctioning after normal office hours.
There are many innovative elements that contribute to Kitchen Shop’s success — such as an ambient in-store café area for people to gather in and share information and ideas. There are product demonstration areas, and a ‘try before you buy’ corner, and even a mini garden in the middle of the store to showcase the BBQ equipment and utensils. However again, it’s the things that you don’t at first see that uphold the two pillars of sustainability and healthy living.
“We are all about conserving energy,” explains Ms. Yeap. “And on a commercial level, when it comes to products, we’re all about credibility, integrity and honesty – we don’t divert from this.”
And example of conserving energy is in how the company strives to educate their customers about why they should use particular products and how – for instance using ceramic pots to conserve heat. And teaching people to cook good, simple food for themselves and families, and how to avoid so much waste.
“We teach people how to have a healthier life and how to conserve energy in the kitchen,” says Ms. Yeap. “Even if we can get a product cheaper, and make more money from it, if it is not well made and not good for the environment, we will not take that path. We will not stock that product for ethical reasons. We then need to educate our customers to understand those decisions. And educate our staff so they know how to explain the products and the purchase choices behind them.”
The business is also based upon something that the co-founders hold close their heart: family values. “We believe very much in the values of love and gratitude,” says Mr. Basri. “When we hire new people, they need to fit into this family-based culture. If someone is very educated and knowledgeable and has the right experience for a role, but they have poor values, we would not hire them. Because to us, this store is like a real home – offering good value and a great experience to the customer.”
Kitchen Shop is also very much about offering their customers the best prices possible, and because they can access products straight from manufacturers, they can pass on savings. “We bring the best quality household products to our consumers at affordable pricing, uplifting the standards and quality of products that we put on the shelves in order to meet a customer’s needs, and improve our customers’ lifestyles,” says Mr. Basri.
So really, the ethos is simple, and yet the results are award winning. “Kitchen Shop believes that home cooking brings people together and creates a sense of belonging,” says Ms. Yeap. It’s not only a retail shop out to sell products, but a place to inspire customers to have better bonding with loved ones, and a healthy, happy lifestyle.”