Members of the kitchen and bath industry, along with the rest of the world, it seems, have been holding their collective breath since the middle of 2008. The world has changed dramatically since that time, enveloped in what has shaped up to be the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
While no one is ready to exhale quite yet, there are signs that the kitchen and bath industry is finally on its way to recovery. And hopefully there is a silver lining to the "Great Recession," in that those affected by it have learned from it, and can build a stronger future because of it (see related Editorial).
Picking up the Pace
Most kitchen and bath dealers report that, while business has shown improvement in the past year, the path has been unpredictable.
Matt Giardina, president, Front Row Kitchens, in Norwalk, CT saw business get slowly better from 2009 to 2010, "but it's been uneven, rather than a straight line," he reports. He notes that business started picking up in the middle of 2010, only to hit a lull in the third quarter.
Indeed, the NKBA's Second Quarter Kitchen & Bath Remodeling Market Index Report showed increases in all five measures of the kitchen and bath remodeling industry's health: showroom visitors, monthly kitchen sales volume, kitchen sales prices, monthly bath volume and bathroom sales prices. In the third quarter, however, all five measures decreased according to the report, which has been conducted since December 2008 by surveying kitchen and bath dealer members of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The survey is conducted every three months to track quarterly changes in the kitchen and bath market (see related story, below).
Despite the declines in the third quarter, 43% of NKBA dealers expected their overall kitchen and bath revenue to increase in the fourth quarter of 2010.
When asked whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the industry as a whole in the fourth quarter, NKBA dealers were slightly more optimistic than they were in the third quarter, noted the report.
"Kitchen dealers were very optimistic about the last three months of 2010, as half expected kitchen sales volumes to increase through the end of the year," the survey noted.
Although showroom visits were down in the third quarter, the survey noted, NKBA dealer members were optimistic that the figure would reflect higher in the last quarter of 2010 and beyond.
"There does seem to be a fair amount of foot traffic now," confirms Giardina. "I'm not sure how many people are actually buying, but there is enough traffic. If we can convert those into sales, things will be okay," he reports.
Julian McKinney, general manager/senior designer, Wilmington Kitchens Design Studio in Wilmington, NC has seen an increase in the number of jobs in 2010 over the year before, partly because "2009 was horrible," he notes. He adds that his firm, which is located in a fast-growing beach community, started seeing a dramatic increase in business at the mid-year point of 2010 "as far as walk-in traffic, people calling and in actual jobs," and that is continuing.
"I have seen a definite change in attitudes and showroom traffic since the new elections," adds Kathy Simoneaux, owner, Acadian House Kitchen & Bath Studio, in Baton Rouge, LA. For the future, "we're signing jobs."
McKinney also anticipates a rise in the number of jobs for 2011. "I already have four installations scheduled for January," he reports. He believes that his company is going to have at least a 25 percent - if not a 50 percent - increase in business in 2011 over 2010. He also reports that people are definitely spending more than they have in the last few years.
"I'm going by what I'm seeing and the attitudes of people," McKinney comments. "We're getting a lot of remodels because people don't want to move. They feel very comfortable living in their existing neighborhoods and upgrading because, when the market does come back, they're going to have a greater product to offer."
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