Consumer confidence is starting to improve says commercial director of Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery Terry Brown
When the recession hit, factors like cessation of credit, uncertainty surrounding mortgages and a general feeling of unease about long-term job security meant that consumer confidence declined to an all-time low. For an industry reliant on consumers’ spending money on big ticket items, this was never going to be good news. After all, why buy a brand new fitted kitchen or bathroom today when you can buy one next year, or the year after for that matter?
As the economic downturn took hold, consumers really started to batten down the hatches – choosing to stay put in their existing homes rather than risk moving during uncertain times. House builders stopped building and the once booming buy to let market, which we know attracted so many part-time developers to buy kitchens for refurbishment projects, disappeared.
In the early days, not only were people dealing with the shock of suddenly realising they couldn’t get a mortgage, many homeowners with mortgages already in place were also thinking twice about spending money.
Business as usual
Five years in to the recession and I think it’s fair to say we’ve got used to operating in a tougher climate now. In many ways it has become the norm and whilst there have been casualties along the way, businesses have adapted as best they can to operate under the circumstances.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Thanks to low interest rates, people are still buying kitchens. Of course they are. Businesses like Benchmarx wouldn’t be here today if they weren’t. However, ‘making your own luck’ by working harder to convert any interest into sales has had to be the order of the day.
Throughout the downturn the one indicator I have watched with great interest, is the consumer confidence reports for high ticket items.
The latest statistics report a rise in confidence for the first time in many years. Whilst the figures are still negative, they are less negative than they were, which is an encouraging sign for the industry as a whole.
In the months ahead, we’ll have to see if this remains the case. We all know how fragile any recovery is likely to be. More than any other indicator, if people are starting to feel better about the world they live in and happier in their homes, then they are more likely to consider a return to spending on bigger ticket items as a result.
Whilst I don’t think it’s time to hang the flags out in celebration just yet, if we take each quarter’s results as they come and keep our fingers tightly crossed then perhaps, just perhaps, we are starting to see a genuine light at the end of the tunnel that the industry can start working its way towards.