Staying in Touch With a New Market And New Consumer

The kitchen and bath industry may be vastly different now than it was at the height of the nation’s housing boom. There’s no doubt, however, that it remains a fast-changing, fashion-driven entity. And there’s no doubt that success requires design professionals to keep their eyes open and their ears to the ground – to observe and listen to seismic shifts in the market.

That may be truer now than ever, as an uncertain, post-recession, politically charged business climate continues to dramatically reshape the market, the mindset of homeowners, the buying patterns of consumers, and the look and feel of American homes.

So much has changed – and in such a short time. Homeowners have abandoned the “uncompromised” kitchens and “trophy homes” that marked the industry’s peak years. Budgets are managed more scrupulously. Consumer “hot buttons” are different. New types of consumers are impacting the market. The Internet is offering new purchasing options.

And all that, in reality, is merely the tip of the iceberg.

All of which only serves to buttress the findings of a pair of market research studies (Pages 11 and 32) reported in this month’s Kitchen & Bath Design News. Both studies were conducted by KBDN’s research partner, the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). Both contain illuminating findings that carry cues about how the market is changing, and how design professionals should react to the changes.

To wit:

Nearly two in five surveyed design professionals believe that kitchen remodeling budgets will increase in the next 12 months, while nearly half feel that bath remodeling budgets will increase.

Two in three designers and dealers feel that partial kitchen remodels will make up a larger portion of their kitchen projects in the coming year.

Kitchen products most likely to see budget increases include interior storage solutions and countertops, with greater demand seen for islands and storage features such as roll-outs, pull-outs and pull-downs. Bath products most likely to see budget increases include shower systems and tub enclosures. On the flip side, about one in five surveyed design pros feel that budgets for major appliances and cabinetry will decline in the coming year, and only 10 percent feel their clients will give more consideration to using eco-friendly products.

Casual or transitional kitchen styling is expected to increase in popularity more than other design styles, with clients seeking kitchens that are “functional” and “comfortable.” Words to describe the kind of baths more clients will want include “functional,” “comfortable” and “light-filled.”

Four in five surveyed designers and dealers report they see greater demand these days for furniture-styled vanities and his-and-her vanities. About half see high demand for “super” showers, customized storage in bathrooms and radiant heated flooring.

This type of research should serve as more than casual reading material to kitchen/bath design professionals. To the contrary, it should serve as the foundation for a blueprint on how to flourish in today’s new, and ever-changing, market.

Changes in the market are reinforcing the need for design professionals to take a new and enlightened approach to how they conduct business – to diversify into new niches, identify new profit opportunities and, at the very least, stay in close touch with what homeowners are thinking and feeling.

The design professionals who understand, and remain in tune with, the market’s changes will be the ones who achieve success. Those who disregard what’s currently taking place – and what’s coming down the road – will face a far less glowing fate.


Publisher’s Note: Kitchen & Bath Design News is pleased to announce that it has renewed its exclusive partnership with the Research for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). As in the recent past, the Charlotte, NC-based RICKI – a leading source of research into consumers and the trade – will supply KBDN with two major market studies in 2013, as well as access to additional research into key design, product and business trends.

KBDN’s partnership with RICKI has been highly beneficial to our readers and advertisers, providing critical insights that enable dealers, designers, wholesalers, manufacturers and others to understand and define our market. It’s gratifying to know that the partnership will extend into 2013 – and, hopefully, well beyond.