Company Shifts Focus to Meet Consumers' Needs

Company Shifts Focus to Meet Consumers' Needs

By Denise D. Vermeulen

Earlier this year the firm, formerly known as KDA-Kitchen Distributors of America, changed its name and updated its logo to better reflect its growth and its new consumer-focused business. KDA also opened its 16th showroom in the Chicago area, bringing its total number of showrooms to 22. That total includes two showrooms in northern Indiana and three in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

The firm was founded by Abe Kogan in 1948 as a plumbing and heating supply business, located in a small Chicago storefront. Kogan later added a line of kitchen cabinets, which ultimately became an integral part of his business. He opened his first showroom in Chicago in 1957.

Today, KDA Kitchen Design, which had sales totaling $75 million in 2001, is part of the privately owned Builders Group of Cos. Until recently, the bulk of its sales came from the builders' market. Today, it is the largest independent seller of cabinets and other kitchen and bath furnishings in the Chicago area, according to Kogan.

Making It Easy
General Manager Robb Best cites a recent study that found one-third of those considering a new kitchen design abandon the project because they become overwhelmed. KDA found the study enlightening, and reacted to this news by focusing the business around making the kitchen remodeling process as easy for the customer as possible.

The new focus on the individual consumer has led to several changes in the KDA mindset. KDA designers work to understand their customers' different lifestyles and incorporate their specific and varied needs into the designs they create. KDA also offers myriad services that includes in-house installation, for a concept-to-completion design solution, says Best.

In addition, each KDA showroom was recently renovated or rebuilt, offering a wide variety of displays in updated surroundings. And, adding to the "consumer friendly" atmosphere, customers who now enter a KDA showroom are immediately offered a beverage and handed a showroom map, which they can use to mark displays for future reference.

To further enhance customers' experience and to get a true sense of what they need and want, designers ask clients to describe their lives and interests in depth. Staff designers use this information to guide each client toward specific products that best "dovetail with his or her lifestyle," explains Best.

An unusual feature that makes it easy for consumers is the global positioning satellite that locates delivery truck drivers, which allows KDA to provide customers with an update on delivery times.

Additionally, training is essential to KDA's success formula, with all KDA designers required to complete 32 hours of training each year. Topics range from product and design trends to installation techniques and company business procedures and systems. They attend classes offered by the NKBA, manufacturers and distributors, as well as KDA's own education department.

KDA's concerted effort toward educating staff begins with the hiring process. The company's approach has been to find a "certain kind of personality" and train them the KDA way. The full-time trainer on staff immerses new employees in a five-week intensive training session that Best describes as "boot camp."

Broad Appeal
While smaller companies often carve out a specific niche within the market, KDA is aiming for a broader market, designing kitchens and baths for the low, middle and high end. Its semi-custom line, however, starts at the mid-level range.

KDA competes in both the wholesale and retail markets, and targets both the individual consumer and the building market. The end result, claims

Best, is a stable firm that doesn't rely on only one segment to stay afloat.


Abe Kogan, founder; Harvey Kogan, president; Steve Kogan, v.p.; Robb Best, general manager
22; approximately 110,000 total square feet apiece
HOURS OF OPERATION: Monday & Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; (Some locations open on Sunday)
EMPLOYEES: 248 (including more than 90 designers)
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: HomeCrest, Fieldstone, Kitchen Craft, Sub-Zero, Viking, Thermador, Jenn-Air, GE, DuPont Corian, Formica, Granit, Grohe, Elkay, Jacuzzi, Delta, In-Sink-Erator, Kohler
SPECIALTIES: Provides consumers with a concept-to-completion service while designing around the customer's lifestyle.
"We are customer-driven."