Blending the Old and the New

You hear a lot these days about the dramatic impact technology is having on the kitchen and bath industry.

You hear it all the time, from virtually all industry sectors.

You hear, for example, about how technology is literally creating new forms of capital in today's market and how it has become a very real competitive force that can no longer be ignored.

You hear about dazzling new developments in software that have forever altered the way design firms interact with clients, employees and subcontractors.

You hear about how we're seeing the formation of a powerful, fully integrated sales chain linking manufacturers, designers and consumers like never before with instant online ordering, and just-in-time inventory, and the elimination of manual entry errors, and the automatic upgrading of price quotes, and the immediate confirmation of orders.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

We continue to hear each day about the Internetand how it's providing an exponential expansion of shopping optionsand how it's revolutionizing the way consumers purchase luxury products and how it's impacting the way design firms find prospects, promote their business, pre-qualify customers and cut valuable time out of the sales process.

And now, we're hearing more and more about how the kitchen/bath industry is
moving inexorably toward "virtual showrooms"toward computerized "immersion" for showroom visitorstoward a new generation of "e-tailers" with computer-loaded retail outlets that, some say, could possibly lead to the demise of the traditional showroom.

All this, of course, is very exciting. And all of it clearly illustrates how far the kitchen and bath industry has come, and how fast.

Just as exciting and wonderful, though, are stories that Kitchen & Bath Design News is hearing about how industry professionals are relying on certain key basicson very solid lessons they've learned from the paston principles that were applied long before technology was all the rage and e-commerce was reshaping the way the industry does business.

They're stories about how dealers, designers and distributors still utilize innovative showrooms as the primary business tool that sets their companies apart and allows customers to see, touch and experience products first-hand.

They're stories about how dealers, designers and distributors even in an age of electronic razzle-dazzle still rely on effective, old-fashioned selling techniques to meaningfully connect with clients.

And they're stories that remind us that technology, for all its virtues, can't and never will replace face-to-face contact, verbal communication, genuine creativity, client service and the impact of strong, trusting relationships.

K&BDN shares some of those stories with our readers this month at the same time we share the latest trends in e-commerce.

They're stories like those of Ken Bauer, a dealer who doesn't quite shun computers, but who, instead, uses a specially made set of miniature 3D blocks as his primary means of developing layouts for kitchen prospects.

They're stories like those of Byron Zolfo, who uses his showroom not just as a product showcase, but as an interactive "destination" that engages clients' senses, emotions and imagination.

Stories like these remind us, in some important ways, of what doing business at retail is all about in the kitchen/bath industry.

It's not about simply embracing technology blindly as some people have apparently done and viewing it as a be-all and end-all for reaching and selling new customers.

Nor is it about eschewing technology entirely, and stubbornly clinging to the ways of the past simply because they're more familiar.

Instead, it's about striking an intelligent balance between the "old" way of doing things, and the "new." It's about staying abreast of new technology and keeping an open mind about it; about taking the best that technology has to offer and combining it with the best of what has always worked.

Those lessons are important to remember as the industry continues to march, very quickly, toward a bold and exciting future whose success will depend heavily on both the old and the new.