No, The Sky Isn't Falling at All

John Forst has a pretty good handle on how to cope with an economic slowdown that's proving problematic for much of the American business community these days.

Forst, a California-based fabricator who serves as president of the International Solid Surface Fabricators Association, outlined his approach in a recent strong message to ISSFA members.

That approach: Don't stop working hard, don't stop marketing to prospects, don't stop communicating with employees, and don't stop networking with colleagues.

There was only one thing, in fact, that Forst advised solid surface fabricators and others to stop doing immediately.

And that's to stop finding reasons why your business can't grow and continue to succeed.

Forst's approach is seemingly working well at least in his own case. He reports, in fact, that his business is up 29% through the first five months of 2001, while his company's backlog of new jobs continues to grow.

It's very curious, indeed, but similar stories about companies that are busy, and thriving, are being echoed throughout the industry . . . even as the fourth quarter opens on a somber note for many U.S. business sectors.

All of which makes you think there's another thing that many of us should stop doing.

And that's to stop believing all the headlines screaming doom and gloom for everyone over the current economic downturn.

The lucky reality for the kitchen and bath industry at least thus far is that it doesn't seem that the sky is falling, at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.

In reality, the housing and kitchen/bath industries have pretty much somehow managed to defy all odds, and have remained remark-ably resilient in the face of the overall economic downturn. Housing is virtually the only economic sector that remains a bright spot. It's also an industry that not only continues to significantly outperform the economy as a whole, but also continues to perform extremely well when measured against its own historical benchmarks.

People ought to remember that when they shrink in horror from all the things they're reading about the economy. They ought to remember that when they plan for 2002. And they ought to be fully cognizant of the sturdy foundation of positive factors that continues to support and sustain this market:

  • Demographic trends that point to continued demand for new and remodeled homes, particularly among large numbers of two-income "baby boom" homeowners now in their peak earning years.
  • Favorable interest rates that continue to spark home purchases, refinancing and other forms of discretionary consumer spending.
  • Near-record levels of home ownership, combined with a housing stock that continues to age, and a high number of homeowners who place kitchens and baths high atop their remodeling "wish list."
  • The prevailing view by large number of Americans that their home represents a "fortress" of sorts from the pressures of the outside world a place to retreat to, spend time in, unwind, gather, entertain, and bond.
  • The related view by a growing number of homeowners that their home, more than ever, represents a "safe haven" for their investments an equity-building means of protecting and growing their wealth that stands in sharp contrast to more uncertain forms of investments.

With that kind of foundation firmly in place, there are many reasons to remain bullish about an industry that will continue to remain vibrant, secure and rich with promise.

So, as John Forst suggests, keep your head up, your wheels spinning, your voice active and your perspective intact. Things will only get bad if you buy into the gloom and doom, abandon the strategy for success, and look for reasons to let your business fail.

Editor's Note: Kitchen & Bath Design News is pleased to introduce a new columnist this month, expanding our lineup of columns exploring virtually every aspect of the kitchen and bath industry. "The Rep's View," written by John K. Morgan will examine the industry through the eyes of the independent rep a vital, yet often overlooked, link in today's product distribution channel. K&BDN readers, it is anticipated, will be exposed through "The Rep's View" to some valuable perspectives from an interesting new industry voice.