Cabinet Outlook Seen as Favorable; 'Challenges' Cited

Cabinet Outlook Seen as Favorable; 'Challenges' Cited

Mont-Tremblant, Quebec The outlook for kitchen cabinet manufacturers is generally favorable, although U.S. cabinet suppliers currently have several key concerns they are actively trying to address, according to Dick Titus, executive v.p. of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

Titus was among several speakers including Kitchen & Bath Design News publisher Eliot Sefrin who addressed product manufacturers and others at a recent "Executive Summit and Manufacturers Forum," conducted at a resort outside Montreal by computer software supplier Twenty-Twenty.

Titus said that while household demographics "favor" the products of KCMA members, and the kitchen/bath industry overall, "we need to figure out how to do it better if we are to grow."

Members of the 345-member, Reston, VA-based KCMA currently account for some 60%-70% of the total U.S. cabinet market, according to Titus, who said that association members have reported some 88 consecutive months of growth.

"We're the exception to what has been a weak economic recovery," Titus said. "Kitchen cabinet manufacturers are on an island, and have been doing much more favorably than most of the American manufacturing sector."

Nevertheless, cabinet suppliers are being victimized by a loss of jobs throughout the U.S. economy, and a dearth of skilled workers, as well as by a series of issues related to government workplace regulations, litigation costs, rising energy expenses and overseas competition, Titus said.

"The increase in imports from China, in particular, has been significant in terms of its growth," Titus said, contending that Chinese manufacturers enjoy an "unfair competitive edge" based on existing currency, tariff and tax codes.

"We need to figure out a way to partner and work with the Chinese without losing manufacturing to them," Titus said.

"The challenge that cabinet manufacturers face is to remain agile, responsive and customer-service-oriented while improving our products and offering them at a lower price," he concluded.