The Changing Face of Today's Kitchen Consumer

The Changing Face of Today's Kitchen Consumer

Kitchen dealers are finding new opportunities as the marketplace experiences the beginning of a trend in which the less traditional consumer joins the customer mix, a new K&BDN survey reveals.

by Denise Vermeulen

Today's kitchen dealers are discovering new trends in their consumer profiles, reflecting both demographic and lifestyle changes. Undoubtedly, the changing face of America is reflected in this developing customer mix, presenting new and exciting marketing opportunities for today's kitchen dealer.

Consumers, nevertheless, remain upscale and savvy, looking to add value to their homes with kitchen remodeling projects that incorporate unique designs, upscale products and efficient layouts.
Additionally, high consumer confidence levels indicate a growing willingness to invest in kitchen remodeling and this is true whether that consumer is single or married, 20-something or 60-something. 

These were the findings of a recent study conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News, which surveyed more than 150 kitchen dealers across the U.S. and Canada to better illustrate consumer profiles and consumer remodeling preferences. 

A new mix

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (73%) of those who are seeing a new variety of consumer say they are seeing more senior citizens (See Graph 3). The population growth in this sector of our economy, along with a rosy financial picture overall, is evidently leaving seniors with more disposable income than ever. 

With an increase in average life expectancy and a growing desire to "age in place," many seniors seem to be responding by remodeling their kitchens to make them more functional in their golden years or to treat themselves to the kitchen they couldn't afford when they were raising families.

Additionally, kitchen dealers surveyed say an average of 27.8% of their clientele is made up of couples with no children. They also note that an average of 5.2% of their clientele is made up of single women, living alone, and another 3.5% is made up of single men, living alone (See Graph 2).

Furthermore, 30% of kitchen dealers contacted revealed a broader base of clients in terms of ethnicity (See Graph 3). All of this indicates new opportunities for kitchen dealers to market and sell to target groups that have gone largely ignored in the past.

Of the remaining respondents, 17% note an increased demand for remodeling projects for physically challenged clients, while an additional 13% spoke of seeing a variety of other "non-traditional" clients (See Graph 3).

Building dreams

Indeed, consumers want not just a kitchen, but "the most functional, gorgeous kitchen space they can get for their investment" according to one of the dealers surveyed. Not surprisingly, then, the top three things kitchen dealers cited as their clients' primary concerns were "an updated appearance" (76%), "a more efficient or more accessible layout" (68%), and "a unique design" (36%). 

Storage, too, is a key concern for today's kitchen consumer, with 35% of kitchen dealers surveyed saying that more storage space is a primary concern for their kitchen remodeling customers. 
Additionally, dealers indicated the following as primary concerns for their clients when remodeling their kitchens: adding an island or breakfast bar (19%), incorporating new appliances (18%), and creating a larger space (12%).

When asked what their clients are requesting more frequently, specialized storage topped the list, with 41% of respondents saying their clients are asking for this. Another 30% noted that their clients are increasingly asking for multiple-height islands; 15% said their clients are more frequently asking for unfitted cabinetry and universal design, respectively, while another 13% said their clients are asking for more multiple counter heights. 

When ranking the order of importance of product categories to their clients, dealers cited new cabinetry as the most important product category, followed by new countertops, updated appliances, new sinks/faucets, new flooring and lighting. 

Neither are today's consumers afraid to invest significant funds to get the kitchen of their dreams, with 22% saying their average kitchen remodel is $40,000+, and more than half saying their customers spend an average of over $20,000 on a kitchen remodel.

This might have something to do with exceptionally high consumer confidence levels; 47% of kitchen dealers indicated that their consumers are more confident about the economy and its potential growth than in the past; and another 39% of dealers felt that consumers were as confident as before.

Additionally, there's a tremendous perception that kitchen remodeling is one of the best home investments a consumer can make. As one dealer noted, the average consumer believes that "if he sells the house, it's the kitchen that will do it!"

But while today's consumer is willing to spend more to get the upscale kitchen, a surprisingly high percentage continue to shop at home centers. In fact, when asked what percentage of their customers shop in or plan to shop in home centers, nearly one-third (33%) said that more than 50% shopped in or were planning to shop in a home center. Another 22% said that 25-49% of their clients shopped in or were planning to shop in a home center, while 23% of survey respondents said that 10-24% of their clients shopped in or were planning to shop in a home center. Only 22% said that less than 10% of their clients visited or were planning to visit home centers (See Graph 4).

This trend is seemingly in sharp contrast with the state of the economy and the numbers regarding price sensitivity and spending. So why are these typically upscale consumers shopping around in the ubiquitous home centers? Perhaps it's because, in addition to price, today's home centers offer an increasing number of choices, with some home centers now gearing up to address a higher-end consumer. And, as one kitchen dealer noted, warehouse shopping in general has become trendy with some upscale consumers practically making a hobby out of shopping for a bargain.

Of course, regardless of trends and economic statistics, consumers will frequently choose to cut costs during projects, even at the high end. One dealer surveyed noted that his customers are very concerned about "the excessive costs of appliances and plumbing fixtures," while several others surveyed indicated their consumers' general concern with project cost. 

And, in fact, "budget," "product variety" and "obtaining a good value for the money" were all mentioned by kitchen dealers as significant concerns for their customers.

According to 46% of dealers surveyed, when it comes to cutting back, consumers' most likely cost saving measure is using less expensive countertop materials. Forty-three percent of kitchen dealers said their clients would cut costs by using stock cabinetry, while another 26% said their clients would save money by keeping existing appliances. 

The remaining 14% of those surveyed mentioned other cost-saving options such as refacing cabinetry (4%), installing cheaper appliances, or scaling down the overall scope of the project.

Other results
Additional results of the K&BDN survey include the following:

  • Kitchen dealers continue to find word of mouth to be the single most effective method of marketing, with a whopping 85% saying their clients are most likely to choose their firm based on recommendations from others. 
  • Traditional marketing methods remain strong, with 21% of dealers saying walk-in traffic accounts for a significant portion of their business, 18% saying their clients are most likely to choose their firm based on Yellow Pages listings and 17% saying their clients claiming to have success soliciting clients with newspaper ads. 
  • urprisingly, despite an increasingly computer-savvy consumer, only 8% of survey respondents said that their clients chose their firm based on Web sites or Internet listings. 
  • Other successful marketing techniques mentioned by dealers included promotional events, direct mail and home shows.