Rod Brewer, v.p./marketing and product development for Mid Continent Cabinetry, in Eagan, MN, says, “In many ways, smaller kitchens are more efficient kitchens. I don’t think that people are looking for gadgets, but highly useable storage solutions. Dealers and manufacturers need to show how to use interior storage to make their lives better.” He believes that these interior elements shouldn’t be called accessories, but rather, requirements.
“Being able to access all the space in a cabinet is important,” says Nierengarten. Elements in highest demand include roll outs, spice racks, and pull out pantry units. Ptacek agrees. “No one wants to get on their hands and knees anymore, so they want everything to come to them,” he says.
Ducharme has seen a growth in drawer bases, as well as more storage accessories from pull-outs to toe-kick drawers. And Miller says that consumers are also using ceiling height to get more storage, by using taller wall cabinets or stacking wall cabinets.
Having the design, style and organizational capacity that meets the exact needs of the consumer is increasingly valuable, in all price points, and with all cabinet options, manufacturers agree. Many believe that the definitions of custom, semi-custom and stock cabinetry are shifting, which also impacts the cabinet industry. “The definitions may be changing due to the pressure on dealers and manufacturers to provide improved features and benefits to attract customers,” says Wilcox.
Ducharme says, “Stock cabinetry builders are trying to reinvent themselves by increasing their offerings; mid-priced lines are continuing to strive to please the consumer with the pursuit to remain constant, while the high-end custom lines are looking to provide a lower cost alternative to increase their market share.”
Sandy Nierengarten, creative design coordinator for Crystal Cabinet Works, Inc. in Princeton, MN says that several modifications that were previously only available in custom lines are now offered in semi-custom. While she doesn’t think designers will compromise style for value, she does say, “Value is more important than ever.”
Ptacek says, “I don’t think there is a true ‘stock’ line out there anymore. Everyone is doing things they didn’t do two or three years ago. No one wants to say ‘no’ to an order today, so they are allowing various modifications.” He says that Fieldstone does more customizing now than when the firm had a full custom line. The company also merged two price points into one line with all of the attributes, modifications and finishes, a strategy he says has been allowing the company to gain market share in a downturn market.
On the other hand, there will always be different categories of consumers, and therefore a need for all categories of goods. Don Harvey, purchasing manager at Grabill Cabinet Co., in Grabill, IN, says, “Definitions are not changing, but stock and semi-custom are doing a better job of providing a custom look at a value price point. In stock and semi-custom, they are still delivering a nice style/design; however they are compromising quality of finish and construction.” Consumers who opt for true custom lines are able to get high-end style, design, finish and construction, he adds, which he feels is the true value.
Korsten expresses some concern about confusing category definitions. “Consumers place a lot of emphasis on the word “custom” but we feel it is often misused by cabinet builders,” he says. “We call ourselves semi-custom because we don’t do custom wood species and custom door styles, but we’ll build custom configurations and we’ll do custom paints. So, the big question is, what is custom and who defines it?”
Brewer says that the blurring of lines between categories began before the economic downturn. “The consumer has become used to well-designed products at all price points,” he says.
In keeping with recent years, the trends in design continue to favor simple, clean lines with less ornamentation. Harvey sees a movement towards a transitional or more contemporary look, with rich finishes coupling with a clean, simplistic design. He has also seen a trend toward higher gloss finishes, dark stains and two-tone projects.