Attack Has Slight Impact, But Dealers Stay Upbeat
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon may have had a profound impact on the nation as a whole, but many kitchen and bath dealers are reporting only a slight, if any, impact on their businesses.
According to dealers surveyed last month by Kitchen & Bath Design News, the attacks and America's subsequent military response have created a sense of grief, uncertainty, compassion, anger and patriotic fervor among customers and the dealers themselves, but business has not been heavily affected.
"Actually, we didn't feel too much," explained Minda Baez, v.p. and interior designer for Brooklyn, NY-based Signature Interiors, a division of Modern Kitchens & Bath. "People just held back that one week and then people continued to keep on with their lives. We weren't very pushy with anything, and just waited to see how things flowed with everyone's lives because I wanted to be treated the same way."
Lynn Monson, owner of Minneapolis, MN-based Monson Interior
Design, concurs. "It really hasn't [affected us] other than messing
up our scheduling with orders," she said. "For a week [after the
tragedy], everyone was in a funk and not much got done. The urgency
is not quite there now [with certain aspects of the business] and
we tend to take a broader scope with things. Some of the shipments
are a concern, but nothing is as 'life and death' as it was
Monson adds: "As far as orders being cancelled, that has not happened. I've seen a real resolve with customers continuing with their projects, which is refreshing."
For Anthony Carucci, manager of Staten Island, NY-based Kitchens N' Things, business slowed for almost three weeks after the tragedy, but he stated that it has picked up since then, and he is upbeat about the future.
"In the long run, I don't think it's going to have an effect on business as long as the economy is strong," Carucci observed.
But, for others, that is precisely the caveat.
Most housing industry analysts agree that the U.S. economy was flirting with recession prior to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and the housing sector which had remained remarkably resilient in the face of the downturn until then was losing some momentum, as well.
Shockwaves from the attacks, those analysts agree, have certainly put additional downward pressure on the economy and weakened the housing market at least over the balance of 2001 with the American public pulling back from big-ticket purchases.
Prospects for a significant rebound into 2002 and 2003 are
generally viewed as favorable, however particularly in an industry
where business that is lost in the short term is generally regained
down the line, as a result of pent-up demand.
Ken Schmitt, v.p. of Goshen, IN-based Aurora Cabinet Co., agrees. "Before Sept. 11, we were seeing a softening of the market and the tragedy sped that up," he said. "There has been a lot of uncertainty. I think the buying public is taking a 'wait-and-see' attitude and not making any major decisions."
"Summer is usually a time when people are on vacation, so traditionally it is slow, but the tragedy has slowed down business even more," explained David Merrick, president of Merrick Design & Build, in Kensington, MD. "The attack made customers more cautious about pursuing a project. People are just starting to come in again. People who were planning a project have gone ahead with it and people who were not as serious are holding off."
That consumer mindset, however, has led more than a few dealers to start getting a bit more aggressive now that two months have passed since the attacks.
"I've had a 'wait-and-see' attitude about business [since the attacks], but I have also worked on different ways to increase sales," said George Boase, the owner of Woods N More Cabinets, a small cabinet shop in Albany, OR. "I will definitely be soliciting more business soon."
Schmitt agrees. "We've also gotten a little more aggressive following up on leads and doing some things in marketing to try and bring people back around," he concludes.