An Impressive Coming of Age

The kitchen and bath industry marked a significant moment in its history several weeks ago in Chicago, on a memorable night that, some say, marks a new era in the way luxury kitchen/bath products are marketed to affluent consumers.

It was a glittering and extraordinary night, characterized by the kind of high-energy buzz usually associated with a major fashion event, or an important movie opening, or a charity fund-raiser.

It was a night when so much about what now defines this industry came together all at once: The sense of excitement and fashion engendered by cutting-edge kitchen/bath products. The power of upscale brands. The lure of lifestyle marketing. The appeal of creative merchandising. The unique quality offered by boutique-like showrooms.

It was also a night probably as inevitable as it was glorious that the kitchen and bath industry established itself, definitively and indelibly, as perhaps the most vibrant force these days in the residential design trade.

The night in question was the one that marked the formal opening of the LuxeHome, a landmark initiative aimed at redefining the way the kitchen/bath trade interacts with upscale consumers.

Billed as a "consumer-friendly" resource center for designers, architects, builders and their clients, the 90,000-sq.-ft. LuxeHome, located on the first floor of the Chicago Merchandise Mart, consists of a collection of 23 manufacturer, distributor and dealer showrooms and boutiques. Featured in those spaces is a wealth of upscale product cabinetry, appliances, countertops, plumbing products, hardware, flooring, lighting and accessories all of it merchandised creatively and bundled with related services, from design consultation and project management to installation and access to subcontractors.

But LuxeHome, of course, is about far more than marketing to a sophisticated lifestyle, or even about supporting a new level of collaboration between vendors, allied design professionals and upscale consumers.

What it's really about, at its core, is taking the notion of industry partnerships and one-stop shopping to unprecedented new heights.

The appeal of one-stop shopping, needless to say, has been growing for years now. So has the notion of partnerships.

Consumers, clearly, are time-starved. They'd prefer not to traipse all over town, and crave simplicity and speed when it comes to shopping options. They're turned on by the notion of unburdening themselves from having to make confusing, overwhelming choices. They hunger for centralized, multi-dimensional outlets that offer easy access to a deep and diverse range of compatible products. They want a single turnkey source for design, product, installation and other key services.

Luxehome, among many other things, represents the very symbol of all of this. It offers convenience, an impressive product selection, the kind of sophisticated ambiance that stirs the emotions, and the kind of partnerships between the trades that spur consumer confidence. Even more than that, it's a destination that raises the bar, and forces everyone to be better, sharper, more customer-oriented.

LuxeHome, in short, is a win-win concept whose time has clearly arrived. It's a new model for doing business throughout the trade that, no doubt, will be studied and replicated in other major metro markets. It's also just another impressive reminder about how the kitchen and bath industry has captured the public's imagination, and how truly it has come of age.

Editor's Note: Kitchen & Bath Design News is pleased and proud to announce a new association with former Kitchen & Bath Business editor and publisher Leslie Hart, who begins this month with her superb Commentary on Page 28 as a regular contributor to K&BDN.

Hart, of course, hardly needs an introduction to most people in the kitchen/bath industry. Her knowledge, gleaned from years in both trade and consumer publishing, is vast; her insights are respected and valued across the entire industry and certainly by me. For years, K&BDN competed with the magazines she so capably produced. Now, we're happy to report that she'll be part of our team of industry-leading writers and columnists.

Leslie will be addressing today's consumer for K&BDN, with the goal of helping our readers understand how to market to an evolving, increasingly diverse, increasingly sophisticated audience of kitchen/bath customers and prospects.

Look for her contributions to continue regularly in K&BDN throughout 2004 and hopefully for a long time to come.