All About Quality

All About Quality

When it comes to specifying kitchen and bath products, quality really is king, with product and service quality the top factors impacting which products dealers decide to specify, a new K&BDN survey reports.

By Janice Anne Costa

Styles may change with the times; trends may come and go; but when it comes to specifying kitchen and bath products, quality is the one thing that never goes out of style.

Quality is clearly the buzzword of the new millennium, superseding style, price, features and gadgetry as consumers' top concern and dealers' most-desired feature when selecting kitchen and bath products.

As a Midwest-based kitchen and bath dealer explains it, "Trust has become the number-one, essential, must-have ingredient in today's market, and to achieve that, you have to deliver quality."

"It's all about quality," agrees a West Coast-based dealer. "It always has been, and it always will be."

It's no surprise, then, that quality both product quality and quality of supplier service and support topped the list of key factors influencing kitchen and bath dealers' decision to add or change product lines, according to a new survey by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

The survey polled some 150 kitchen and bath dealers from all across the U.S. with regard to how they specify new products, what factors impact their decision to add, change or drop a particular product line, what types of products they're most likely to add or drop from their existing lines and how long they're willing to showcase a product to see if it has "legs."


Interestingly, while design is known for being an image-driven field, kitchen and bath dealers surveyed seemed far more interested in substance: Attractive promotional literature, splashy company promotions, persistent reps and merchandising support were given low priority in influencing dealers' decision to add or change a product line.

In fact, in noting the most important factors impacting their decision to add or change a product line, merchandising support was cited by only 1% of dealers, a great company promotion and a persistent rep were cited by a mere 2% each, and promotional literature was cited by only 3% of respondents.
Likewise, brand names were cited by only 6% of dealers as a key factor in specifying kitchen and bath products.

Low profit margins would cause 37% of respondents to drop a product line, while not enough or poor rep support was also a major factor leading to products being dropped, according to 29% of dealers surveyed.

Some 27% of dealers cited a decrease in client demand for a product as a major factor in dropping a product line, while 25% cited a decrease in product availability. Surprisingly, only 16% viewed price hikes as a major factor in dropping a product line, and only 15% saw costly installations as an issue, illustrating that dealers' customers are increasingly becoming more quality- than price-conscious.
Just 7% of dealers reported that they would view negative feedback from a colleague as reason to drop a product line, while a mere 4% would drop a product line due to a lack of product education or training.

While new products are always exciting to look at, the majority of dealers are more comfortable specifying products that have been on the market for a while, according to survey results, with only 22% of dealers saying they're more likely to try out products that are brand new, while 78% prefer those that have been on the market for a while and that are more "tried and true" (see Graph 3).

However, once dealers do decide to try out a new product, they generally give it a fair chance, according to those surveyed, with the majority (55%) saying they would give a new product 10 months or more before rendering a judgement. A mere 9% allow only one to two months to see if a product has legs; 17% will give it three to five months; 18% will allow six to nine months; 24% will give it 10 months to one year; 25% will go one year to 18 months, and 6% will wait more than 18 months to see if a product is "a keeper."

Products or categories cited by dealers as least likely to be added to current offerings included appliances (51%), toilets/bidets (42%), ventilation/ air purification systems (40%) and tubs/whirlpools/shower systems (39%).

Dealers also expressed an interest in showcasing multiple product lines for both the kitchen and bath: While a quarter (25%) of those surveyed reported they carry four or fewer product lines for the kitchen, another 38% reported that they carry five to nine product lines; 19 percent carry 10 to 15 product lines; 6% carry 16 to 24 product lines and 12% carry more than 25 lines.

When it comes to bath products, dealers reported being somewhat more conservative, with over a third (36%) reporting they carry four or fewer product lines, 33% saying they carry five to nine product lines, 12% reporting they carry 10 to 15 product lines and 13% noting they carry more than 25 product lines.

Nearby distribution was also a factor in dealers' decision to specify products, with just less than half (49%) citing this as important. However, the great majority of dealers surveyed (86%) said there were adequate distribution channels for the kitchen and bath products they most wanted (see Graph 5).

In addition to quality products, dealers reported that the quality of service is a top priority, and has a significant impact on what products they specify. To that end, manufacturers' reps and their ability to provide dealers with what they need can play a key role in determining what products end up in dealers' showrooms and, ultimately, in clients' homes (see related story below).

Rep's visits can be key to ensuring dealers receive the kind of quality service they desire, and, to that end, the survey compared frequency of rep visits to dealers' desired frequency of rep visits.
Some 47% of dealers reported that their reps visit at least every other month (see Graph 4), though more would like to see their reps this often, with 64% of dealers noting that would like to see their reps visit at least every other month.

Some 26% of dealer respondents noted that their reps came only once every six months, compared to 14% who desired this frequency of visits.

Overall, the majority of dealers wanted to see their reps monthly (31%) or bimonthly (22%), with a smaller number interested in weekly (1%) or biweekly (10%) visits.

By contrast, the greatest percentage of manufacturers' reps were actually more inclined to visit every three months (27%) or every six months (26%).

While several dealers reported the use of e-mail as a sometimes-effective substitute for in-person visits, others believed that regular rep visits are essential because they help to keep the lines of communication open and address problems. KBDN