MD of KBBG Bill Miller looks back at 2015 and offers a ‘state of the nation’ view
Independent kitchen specialists have seen another challenging year in 2015, and I predict more of the same for the coming year. The market remains patchy, with some retailers reporting healthy sales and others finding it more difficult, even when trading in the same area. Consumers are clearly being very selective in where they are spending their money; they are carrying out more research at home and visiting more outlets than ever, before making their final choice.
Bigger kitchen projects
The trend towards ‘improve rather than move’ will continue, with many kitchen sales being tied into much larger building projects. This has resulted in a much longer time period between first customer contact and order completion. As a result, retailers increasingly have to be more patient and adjust their sales strategy accordingly. Independent kitchen retailers have seen an overall increase in average kitchen order values in 2015 as consumers seek out higher quality and more exclusive products. In response to this, a number of kitchen studios have introduced premium kitchen furniture and appliance brands into their showrooms for the first time. This trend for kitchen businesses moving further up-market is very likely to continue into 2016.
Growing in size
A positive and healthy sign for the market is the increasing number of brand new kitchen businesses opening in the second half of 2015, plus established kitchen showrooms looking to expand either their display space or opening a second or third outlet. And over the last twelve months there has been a change in thinking towards kitchen showroom displays from a ‘more is more’ approach, offering maximum choice, to ‘less is definitely more’ with fewer and larger lifestyle kitchen displays being newly installed. This allows the independent kitchen retailer to differentiate their business from national kitchen retail chains which still tend to show a large number of smaller kitchen displays.
Staff shortage continues
On a negative note, one major issue which is likely to worsen in 2016 is the severe lack of quality, experienced kitchen and bathroom sales people, designers and installers. Nearly every kitchen retailer I visited in 2015 has unfilled vacancies. The situation is becoming critical and is affecting the ability of retailers to keep up with the growing customer demand. What is the answer? Probably in the short term very little; longer term, however, the kitchen and bathroom industry must do more to attract people into our sector, and businesses urgently need to be encouraged and incentivised to introduce new apprentice and trainee schemes. Despite these challenges, independent kitchen retailers who offer their customers an unrivalled experience and service, and have created a showroom which offers beautifully presented, interesting, and saleable products, could find that 2016 is going to be a good year indeed.
This article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News