kbbBirmingham: Day One

The first impressions of kbbBirmingham 2014

KbbBirmingham started with a bang not a whisper, if you believe the anecdotal evidence of queues outside the door before the show opened. Few would argue the point if they had to fight their way through the aisles in the first hours of the show. But even if you questioned this, kbbBirmingham seems to be the event the bathroom and kitchen retail industry has been waiting for. The show has had a great vibe, with a real buzz of excitement from retail visitors keen to be there. It's a far cry from the previous event held two years ago. Of course, the economic backdrop has changed - with kitchen and bathroom companies seemingly more relaxed about their future.

Showroom focus

But arguably, the change in energy could also be in part to the show, which this year seems more focused on showrooms with exclusivity for retail – whether that’s been kitchens or bathrooms – and that’s been evident from companies such as Ideal Standard and RAK Ceramics through to Franke and Grundig, which has partnered with Nolte. It’s not only gauging the retailers’ demands but also their (and their customers') needs which have been the ingredients to many of the stands' final flourishes. The independent retailer seems to be firmly in the sights of exhibitors, which have provided them with exclusive products and services, and in return it offers manufacturers and suppliers a fertile ground for future sales. A win: win, surely? And to support the independent retailer, quality and service seem to be the key foundations for suppliers to attact custom.

Quality question

Interestingly ‘Quality’ seems to be one of the familiar brand ‘Messages’, ‘Values’, ‘Pillars’ (call it what you want) of exhibitors at the show – depending on how corporate your approach to businesses. Surely this was a given in days of yore? But seemingly it is a message that many are now keen to once again address. But perhaps ‘quality’ is a grey area that needs further clarification. What does quality actually mean to each individual kitchen and bathroom company?

Silver service

To complete the briefest of show theme summations – heck it’s only been 48 hours - ‘service’ seems to be a key priority for kitchen and bathroom suppliers. Suppliers have recognised the flexibility retailers need to meet the needs of an ever- demanding audience. It still seem the demand for retail is to have readily accessible stock, that they can trust with the security of after-care. And it’s where warranties seem to be coming into their own.

Points to improve

Of course, it’ not been all hearts and flowers, as a few visitors voiced their dissatisfaction at the lack ‘something new’, which certainly in design terms is hard to qualify, and only a few bathroom exhibitors – only to be expected if they had read the exhibitor list beforehand. There were also a minority that voiced their concerns not all stands were as prepared as they should have been – reportedly a few on the opening day weren’t familiar with their own products. However - these grumbles aside – kbbBirmingham has been at a fortuitous time. And, no doubt, it has helped the bathroom and kitchen industry provide the much-needed (post-recession) boost it needed.

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