Solid Grades for the Kitchen Design Trade

The report cards are in – and the kitchen and bath retail trade, it’s gratifying to report, is apparently earning pretty good grades in the eyes of most kitchen remodeling consumers.

Not straight A’s, perhaps, but clearly far more than simply passing marks. And clearly the kind of grades that can help dispel the long-held, widespread belief that residential remodeling, by definition, must always be a nightmarish ordeal overseen by companies who deliver nothing more than over-hyped, empty promises.

Quite a different finding, in fact, emerges from a nationwide consumer survey conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News in conjunction with its sister trade magazines Qualified Remodeler and Residential Design & Build (see story, Satisfaction).

Indeed, the survey reveals that most consumers, by and large, are satisfied with the kitchen remodeling project they undertook. Most report that they feel their kitchen dealer or designer provided insightful product information, was responsive to their needs, competently supervised their installation, and followed through with post-sale support.

And there’s more good news.

Most consumers surveyed by KBDN report that the price they paid for their remodeled kitchen represents what they feel is fair market value. They report, further, that the kitchen design professional who handled the project communicated effectively with them, managed their expectations and capably dealt with unexpected problems. And, most said, they’d refer their dealer or designer pro to a friend.

All this, of course, is highly encouraging – especially in light of the demands imposed by today’s kitchen consumers, who, needless to say, aren’t the easiest people in the world to please.

Today’s kitchen consumers, as most of the industry is aware, are clearly more affluent, educated and savvy than ever. They’re more aware of brand names, product choices, features, prices. Their homes have soared to new heights of prominence as targets for investment. Their expectations are also loftier than ever. They demand more in the way of quality and choice. They’re more exacting and vigilant in their purchases. They’re more insistent that promises are lived up to, that value is delivered, that customer-service levels match those of top-tier luxury-product providers.

All of this is precisely why the findings of KBDN’s consumer survey are so encouraging.

For decades, the consumer press has been flush with horror stories about remodeling projects that have gone awry, leaving consumers wounded, angry and ripped off. Similarly, for decades, the residential remodeling industry has suffered from a black eye – earned or not – that has made much of the American public quake in their boots at the mere thought of undertaking a major project like a kitchen or bath.

It’s reassuring to know that the vast majority of consumers who’ve actually had their kitchen remodeled feel otherwise. It’s equally reassuring to know that kitchen dealers and designers are apparently working hard to dispel tired, old myths and to deliver on consumers’ dreams.

Clearly, there’s still a lot of ways the kitchen retail trade can improve. Too many consumers, for example, report unwelcome surprises on the kitchen projects they undertook: budgets that were exceeded; delays that were unanticipated; products that fell short of expectations; disruptions to their family life that were unnecessarily prolonged.

By and large, though, KBDN’s latest consumer survey paints a picture of a kitchen design professional who has grown, over the years, to be more sophisticated, more responsive, and more in touch with the needs of consumers. Hopefully, that trend will continue, and future grades for the kitchen design trade will be even better than they are today.