Designers Discuss Issues Impacting the Industry

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: What do you feel is the most significant development affecting the kitchen and bath industry in 2010? Following are some of their responses:

“The first thing that comes to mind is that, lately, I’ve seen an increase in consumer confidence. Suddenly we’re getting more calls and e-mails, and people have this pent-up desire to purchase – it’s almost like a panic to spend! That said, I have not seen it continue long enough to be completely optimistic, but I do believe we are heading out of this [difficult economic] situation. I definitely do not see it getting worse. All along [in our market], it has always been pretty typical for people to buy big items like a kitchen or bath impulsively. There have always been people here who’ve been able to spend the money, but perhaps they were afraid because of all of the bad news we would hear literally every day. Basically, I’m starting to see a lot of these people now revisiting projects that they’ve wanted to do for quite a while.”

Brenda Be, principal designer
beTM Design
Boston, MA

“Of course the main thing is the economy. The economy has affected everything from luxury products to remodeling and so on, so there is a lot of decision making that is taking longer among shoppers. The key is that, as kitchen and bath design professionals, we have a duty to make sure people have the comfort level – that they are making the right investment and have done sufficient shopping, and that they are as educated as possible about the process. Obviously it’s a tough time right now; everyone is being very cautious with their money and wants to make sure they are not making any mistakes. Ultimately, they want a sense of confidence that they are doing the right thing, and that is why I think kitchen and bath designers are in an enviable position right now. Instead of going to ‘big box’ stores, consumers are relying on us to educate them about the process and what their expectations should be.”

Albert Carey, ASID
Sonoma Kitchen & Bath
Santa Rosa, CA

“The economy continues to affect the kitchen and bath industry. I have been in the industry for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of downturns in the economy, but nothing like this by any means. It has completely transformed our business. The bottom line is that, in our area, the business opportunities are just very small – and the main reason for that is because consumers are so fixated on price. As a kitchen and bath dealer, you can cut your prices all you want, but if you don’t have income, you can’t pay your bills! That’s the worst part about it: Being in business for 30 years doesn’t mean anything to consumers and good quality doesn’t mean anything to consumers these days, either. It is all just about who offers the lowest price. We have been selling quality and integrity – and providing that for 30 years – and it’s still all about price. Down on the coast of South Carolina where my firm is located, people are getting deals on the houses that are selling right now, so the hesitation comes from them feeling that they won’t get a deal.”

Duval Acker, CMKBD, co-owner
Kitchens by Design
Mt. Pleasant, SC

“From a growth standpoint, I think we have seen that remodeling is back on an upswing. I think the reason for that is that it’s easier to get money for a remodeling project than for new construction. We’ve probably seen our business go from 50-50 new construction versus remodeling to 75 percent remodeling versus 25 percent new construction. One of the challenges is the new EPA lead-paint rule that is going to make it a little tougher in remodeling projects because you have to do it according to their rules and be certified. A lot of people I know are in the process of getting their certification for that. But I do believe this is one of the challenges that could slow growth for people in our industry who are not certified. Overall I am feeling positive about the future of the industry, specifically on the remodeling side of things. The only thing we have to remember is to make sure that we become more efficient in our installation processes, but I feel very good about the industry as a whole.”

David W. Plumley, CKD/CBD
Creative Kitchens
Huntington, WV

“The economy is certainly the biggest thing that has affected us, and then also [the hit to] new construction. Over the years, I have worked with many builders, and that market has been slowing down considerably. People are pretty much staying put and remodeling what they have, but [even that] has diminished. People used to be more elaborate with their designs and now are keeping things to a minimum. I think a lot of companies in the industry have worked hard on their products and pricing and coming up with solutions that will help the industry at large in terms of working with clients on a budget. I know that some manufacturers, particularly the stone manufacturers, have changed their material purchasing tactics, which affects the pricing of the product we get from them. So now we can pass that savings on to our clients. We, too, are always researching better ways to give clients what they want through different services we haven’t considered using before.”

Kara S. Reinertsen, CKD, CBD
Harvey’s Kitchens & Baths
Sterling, VA