2007 Offers Time to Better Ourselves

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Well, the inevitable housing slowdown is finally here. And surprisingly, it’s not bad news at all for kitchen and bath dealers and designers.

We all knew the out-of-control housing boom couldn’t last forever. And as the housing market begins the process of self-correction so that we can return to normal and sustainable levels of growth, new home sales are expected to start tapering off.

But despite the slowdown, there’s plenty of good news for kitchen and bath dealers. First off all, while housing starts may be down, the remodeling sector remains strong and solid, and most experts don’t see that changing any time soon (see related story, "Course Correction").

In addition, myriad other factors – from continued favorable demographics and an aging U.S. housing stock to lifestyle factors that encourage consumers to focus on kitchens and baths – continue to make kitchens and baths valuable and highly desired commodities with the American public.

Indeed, kitchen and bath dealers and designers recently interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News were highly optimistic about business conditions for 2007. As some pointed out, the decision to put in a new kitchen and bath is rarely made on impulse, so consumers who have been planning and saving for their dream project for months or years are not going to turn back now. And many design firms already have jobs booked through the first half of 2007 just from the previous backlog.

So, while business may not continue to boom in quite the way it did over the past few years, there’s no question that there’s still going to be plenty of business to go around.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, though, was the fact that a number of dealers surveyed said they were looking forward to having a little down time to give them a breather after several years of non-stop insanity.

For a great many kitchen and bath dealers and designers, down time has become a bit like educational TV: You know it exists, because people are always talking about it, but it’s been so long since you’ve seen any, you can’t help but wonder if it’s merely a myth designed to make you feel guilty for spending your Wednesday nights watching Project Runway and Top Chef.

Still, few will argue that a little bit of down time is a good thing – as long as it’s sandwiched between enough busy times to pay the bills.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of more: more customers, more jobs, more sales. But often, the more more you get, the less profit and efficiency you end up with, as accuracy and service become necessary sacrifices just to keep up with the rush.

So, when the crowds die down a bit, it actually presents a wonderful opportunity to catch up on the business of your business – from updating your accounting software and reviewing your database to taking some time to meet with all those reps you’ve been putting off because you’ve been “too busy” to eat lunch, forget hearing about new products.

So, what else do you do with a little down time? Why not give your showroom a fresh new look, remodel some of your old displays, upgrade your signage, and clean some of the clutter off your desk?

This is also a great time to follow up on old leads, send letters to former customers, forge new creative partnerships and get your business caught up so that you can start preparing for the next big rush.

Because, as we all know, business is cyclical.

As Kitchen & Bath Design News enters into its 25th year of publishing this year, we’ve seen that pendulum swing many times. The housing market grows, and booms, and softens, and then grows again.

And with each change in the economic landscape, our industry grows stronger, smarter and more client savvy.

For going on 25 years, it has been our great pleasure to serve this vital market, and to help kitchen and bath design professionals in that quest to grow ever stronger, and smarter, and more attuned to their clients.

While many things have changed in this industry over the years, from technology to style trends, one thing has remained the same: the professionalism of all of you who continually strive to raise the bar for your clients, making their homes and lives better, one room at a time.

As all of us at Kitchen & Bath Design News celebrate our 25th year in publishing, we also celebrate the continued growth of this wonderful industry, and of the hard working, talented and dedicated people who make our industry so great. We thank you for your continued support, and promise to do everything in our power to continue to serve you, and our industry, as we continue to forge ahead into 2007 and beyond.