Consumers Willing to Up Spending, Study Says

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American consumers may be willing to spend far more money on their kitchen remodeling projects than either they or their kitchen design professional may budget for or suspect – but they need to be educated about the benefits of upgrading for maximum satisfaction.

That’s the key finding of a major new study focused on consumer design/product preferences, and how homeowners use their kitchens. The study, called Remodelers 360, was conducted by the Charlotte, NC-based Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). The online survey, whose results were released last month, involved some 10,000 U.S. consumers who recently remodeled their kitchens. The poll was conducted by IMR Research Group (see related Editorial).

With unprecedented spending on kitchens, cookbooks appearing on bestseller lists and viewership of cooking shows soaring, Remodelers 360 was designed to find out how Americans use their kitchens; what they desire in an “ideal” kitchen; what they would “splurge” on in remodeling their kitchens; their best source for remodeling ideas, and related topics, according to RICKI.

Among the key findings of the research initiative were the following:

  • Kitchen and bath remodeling firms may be leaving money on the table. While American homeowners are projected to spend an estimated $80 billion this year on kitchen remodeling, more than 3 in 10 surveyed consumers (33%) said they would spend more money if they had it to do over, while only 7% said they would spend less.

For manufacturers and retailers, including kitchen and bath professionals, this translates to potentially billions of dollars in additional sales, if homeowners can be convinced that upgrading during their remodeling project will result in fewer regrets later. For kitchen consumers, this could mean far greater satisfaction with their remodel, particularly given that many desired upgrades often equate to a relatively small fraction of the overall cost of a remodel.

  • Helping customers plan better may lead to higher kitchen price points. When survey respondents were asked what they would do differently if they had it to do over again, the common themes relate to better planning and budgeting more money for the project – likely the result of realizing, in retrospect, that buying products they really wanted would have added little to the budget but would have added greatly to their overall long-term satisfaction.

Looking at those who would spend more if they had it to do over versus all consumers surveyed, the top things homeowners said they would do differently are different/better cabinets and bigger/change size of kitchen.

  • Even men lust for upscale kitchen appliances. Many kitchen designers encourage homeowners to develop a “wish list” prior to undertaking a kitchen remodel. To this end, survey respondents were asked to rate the desirability of various products in three separate categories of kitchen features for their “ideal” kitchen: appliance upgrades, innovative products and design features.
  1. Appliance Upgrades: If cost isn’t a factor, the top appliance upgrades are a cooktop with built-ins and commercial-grade appliances (63% and 57%, respectively). Although men and women are equally likely to desire the fancy cooktop, men are significantly more likely to want commercial-grade appliances.
  2. Innovative Products: Time-saving innovations top the wish list of American consumers, with the top two being a faucet with a built-in water filter (43%) and an oven that dramatically reduces cooking time (40%).
  3. Design Features: By far the most desirable design features are a central island cooktop (55%), followed by an entertainment area with a computer or TV (26%).
  • Some DIYers have a change of heart. Close to two thirds of kitchen consumers (64%) hired outside help to do at least some of the labor on their recent kitchen remodel. Among those who did all or some of the labor themselves, one third (32%) said they would use outside labor for at least some of the work next time.
    The main reason people choose to do all of the labor on kitchen projects themselves is because they enjoy the process (volunteered by 64% of people who would do all of the labor themselves).
    The main reasons people choose to hire out all the labor are lack of time and lack of skills to get the job done right (27% and 25%, respectively, of people who would hire outside labor for the entire project).
    Women are more likely than men to say they don’t have the necessary skills. Convenience was more likely to be cited as a reason for hiring someone to do the labor by younger respondents (age 18 to 34) and those with higher incomes ($100,000).
  • An “organized” kitchen is the ideal. The adjective selected most often to describe Americans’ ideal kitchen is “organized” (80%) – even greater than the percent who selected “comfortable” (74%) and “open” (71%).
    Certain words appear to be “hot buttons” for some demographic groups more than others, RICKI noted. For example, women indicate a desire for comfort more, choosing words like organized, comfortable, open, warm and family to describe their ideal kitchen, while bolder adjectives – gourmet, exciting and sophisticated – were chosen more frequently by men.

The Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) is an independent, membership-based organization of manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and publications whose revenues come from sales related to the kitchen, including kitchen remodeling. Information about the organization can be obtained by visiting RICKI’s Web site: Additional information about Remodelers 360 can be obtained by contacting Sarah Monks at (704) 708 -5219 or