Staying on Top of the Latest Trends

My friends often joke that the first week of January is for making New Year’s resolutions, and the next three weeks are for breaking them. February is when you begin to look at your goals more realistically.

That’s when you realize that you probably aren’t going to become more financially savvy than Suze Orman, lose 30 pounds in 30 days or suddenly morph into an organizational wizard overnight. However, you also realize that there are plenty of things on your short list that you can do better to get to where you want to be.

I’ve always believed that February is the perfect time of year for reassessing where you want to be by spring, and whether you’re on the right track to get there. Professionally, it’s a good time to examine what new trends are up and coming in the kitchen and bath market, and reexamine your business to make sure you’re prepared to address those changing trends.

Spring is, after all, a time of new beginnings, and this month’s IBS – as well as the upcoming Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in April – provides great opportunities to get revved up for the spring remodeling season.

So, what trends can we expect to see springing up as we get closer to spring?

For one thing, the green movement seems to be slowing down as economic concerns make it tougher to sell consumers on higher-priced green products (see related Consumer Buying Trends, Page 9). This may be further impacted by the dilution of the meaning of green by the sheer overload of green labeled products out there, which have created a market where consumers now expect their purchases to have green properties – without paying more for them.

On the other hand, stylish, multifunctional products that promote Universal Design are getting plenty of buzz, and indeed, some say that Universal Design is going to be the “new green.”

But the popularity of this trend is not focused on the specialized products designed just for the elderly or physically impaired. Rather, the trend seems to be favoring products that have a wider appeal and mainstream functional benefits – especially those that are multifunctional – i.e. grab bars that double as shower shelves or towel racks, easy-grasp handshowers that serve double duty as tools for bathing children or the dog, barrier-free showers that showcase stunning tile designs, etc.

Universal Design is certainly expanding, but it’s not the only area by any stretch. Manufacturers in the kitchen and bath industry seem to be stepping up the pace of their new product launches far beyond what we’ve seen in recent years, with a host of new offerings being launched at this month’s IBS, and many more on tap for KBIS in April. Convenience and time-saving products, easy-to-use technology (in the bath as well as the kitchen) and multifunctional appliances are just a few of the hot products that seem to be trending right now, though you can find a nearly endless array of options to meet virtually any design need through the manufacturers listed in KBDN’s Annual Directory & Buyer’s Guide (Pages 39-65).

Likewise, kitchen and bath dealers also seem to be feeling more comfortable about investing in their businesses again, with many talking about updating their showrooms with new or expanded displays – a far cry from a few years ago, when it seemed most showrooms were more inclined to downsize (see related Market Pulse, Page 6).

As far as design trends go, simplicity is still in, but don’t underestimate consumers’ desire for something that speaks to them personally – like an eye-catching countertop designed to be a unique focal point for the kitchen (see related story, Page 36), or a hand-painted mural that enhances the spa feel of the bath.

Finally, don’t discount the growing impact of technology – not only on the products themselves, but on how consumers research products, prices, design ideas, kitchen and bath firms and more. So stay connected – to the new technology and the hot trends.

You may not lose 30 pounds in 30 days, but you just might lose some of that recession-induced lethargy we’ve all been mired down in over the past few years.

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