While a gradual recovery has been offering glimmers of hope for the kitchen and bath industry, there's no question that the last few years have had a tremendous impact on product choices. This is particularly true of kitchen cabinets, where the slow economy, smaller kitchen footprints, an emotional climate that favors more simplistic styling and a growing interest in environmental concerns have all played a key role in current trends.
While early 2010 figures from the Reston, VA-based Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association suggest that the long tailspin in cabinet sales is beginning to abate (see Barometers, Page 10), consumers are still looking more carefully at all high-ticket purchases to make sure that they are both necessary and imbued with real value. As many consumers have "traded down" from high-end to mid-brand lines in everything from cars to appliances to cabinetry, custom cabinet manufacturers, in particular, have been forced to rethink their offerings.
Technology has evolved to allow semi-custom and even stock cabinets to offer more features and better storage options, and as a result, semi-custom cabinets are gaining in popularly. At the same time, some custom cabinet manufacturers have been forced to create new, more value-priced lines, while others have found ways to market unique storage features or other elements that speak to quality.
At the semi-custom level, consumers are demanding more options, with a greater focus on the interior of the cabinet and the functionality it will add to the home.
From a style standpoint, consumers are less about designing for resale than about choosing something they truly like, and that means popular styles range from traditional to ultra-modern, finished in everything from dark stains to pastel paints. Green options, too, are making some inroads. But while style certainly matters, the interior of the cabinets are taking center stage, as smaller kitchens make better organization and less wasted space the watchwords for the day.
Damand for Value
While a diversity of trends is evident in today's cabinet choices, the one mainstay through all of this, cabinet manufacturers agree, is the idea of "value."
Yet even the definition of value has changed in recent years. While once, value was considered by most to be a euphemism for "cheap," that's hardly the case anymore. Today's definition of value means the product incorporates features that matter to the homeowner, and that offer improved functionality or style benefits that make it a good investment for the money spent. And today's manufacturers agree that the desire for "good value" holds true at every price point.
"Value and quality are more important than ever as people shop for the best deal," says Cindy Draper, marketing manager for Canyon Creek Cabinet Co., in Monroe, WA.
"People want style, quality and value for the best possible price," affirms Robert Nusbaum, president and CEO of Berloni America in Troy, MI.
Manufacturers also note that the search for value doesn't mean consumers aren't spending; they are just spending more wisely.
"Customers who are ready to invest in a new kitchen are more conservative than they may have been in the past; however, quality and options are still important," says Galyn Bennett, Cabinetry by Karman, in Salt Lake City, UT.
"These buyers are not willing to downgrade."
"What we are finding is that a consumer who might have splurged on high-end custom cabinets is now more open to the idea of a semi-custom offering," says Scott Korsten, marketing director for Showplace Wood Products in Harrisburg, SD. "For those people, price isn't really an issue, but they want the most they can get for their money."
One result of the value trend is that semi-custom cabinet lines are gaining market share, and this has given rise to improved and expanded semi-custom cabinetry lines.