Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry. “Do you feel optimistic about your kitchen and bath firm’s prospects for 2012? Why or Why not?"
We're very optimistic about 2012. Our local economy is fairly strong. New construction is picking up, with about 50% to 70% of our business being new construction, homes that are $400,000 on up.
At the same time, we're marketing design services for new homes. It gets our foot in the door with clients, as well as with builders, several of whom are telling us they have homes coming down the pike that they can't start for six months. Home designers are also sending us clients who have plans that aren't totally devised yet so there's business well into the year.
The interest rate is also making it favorable for people [to build and remodel]. They're taking advantage of the low rates to upgrade. People, too, seem to be tired of waiting to see what's going to happen. They've been holding off for a few years, now they're ready to move forward. I feel there's a lot of that in our economy right now. There isn't necessarily anything triggering them other than that they're tired of waiting to see what's going to happen.
Stephen Wells, CKD
Oklahoma City, OK
Several things are happening right now that give us encouragement for 2012. For one, we're getting more inquiries. More people are calling, and we're also getting more hits on our Web site.
We've also seen a real increase in current customers doing second and third projects. Before, we might have done projects for repeat customers, but they were in a new home. Now we're seeing repeat customers do multiple projects – bathrooms in particular – in their existing homes. Our perception is that people are staying in their homes longer so they're spending money to make all spaces consistent.
The third factor for our business is that people seem to like, more than they have historically, one-stop shopping. I think people are focusing on their work to keep their jobs so they have less time to be the general contractor. We're a turnkey firm. We do the interior design and serve as the general contractor. We put the whole palette together. If someone is doing multiple projects in, say, a two-year period, they like the idea of finding one person and going 'back to the barn.'
Lastly, a couple of years ago we spun out a business called snappykitchens.com. The Web-based business focuses on facelifts, on lipstick and makeup. We were getting a lot of calls for that type of work and we weren't really set up to do it. It's an online tool for Dallas homeowners. They can pick materials, then get a price for them installed. It allows people, at their own time and their own pace, to scope a project, then work the budget themselves. Afterwards, we can validate the design and give them ideas for the palette, but within their budget. It's been a real lift to us at a macro level. I think it will continue to remain strong because people use the Web for everything, whether it's research, purchasing products or vetting potential companies.
Mary Kathryn Reese, vice president/co-founder
Kitchen Design Concepts
We have had more calls and more people requesting proposals for work in the past three months than we have had in the past three years. As a broad-spectrum remodeling contractor who also does some light commercial, we have projects scheduled during [historically] slow times of the year for us.
That tells me people are willing to spend money again. I think they are saying they want to move forward. And they're moving forward with projects they want to be nice, not just functional. They're doing more than just fixing tile. We're seeing people are willing to spend and invest in their homes.
We had to shrink our company like most everyone else, but it's good to see that people are interested in doing things nice again. It's been good to have the middle and upper class homeowners do remodeling again.
We have good prospects for this year, and we're excited about the future.
Kevin Hansen, owner
White Glove Home Improvements
St. George, UT
We are encouraged by increased traffic we're starting to see, but it's difficult to tell what 2012 will bring.
I do think people are tired of waiting. For the most part, we work with a high-end clientele and they seem to be tired of doing without. They've seen what the stock market will and won't do, and I think they're a little more comfortable living with the big swings than they were before. I think they're ready to free up some money and aren't quite as afraid of what might happen in the future.
We've been seeing more bathrooms [remodels], which doesn't really surprise me. They're less money for a finished project than a kitchen, although many people we're talking to currently seem to be talking about kitchens.
Last year was a hard year for us. Everything here in California is related to the housing market and jobs, neither of which is moving much. The prediction is that both of them in California are going to be relatively flat.
There is more traffic than we've had in the past, but it's so fragile. It depends so much on customer confidence, which is tied to the government and the stock market, which is tied to what's happening overseas. There are so many unknowns and minefields waiting. If everything stays the stay, I think we'll turn around and things will get better, but we have so little control over so many very important things. I would say we're cautiously optimistic.
Jonathan Salmon, CKD, CBD
Le Gourmet Kitchen, Ltd.