It’s Back to School Time
authors Janice Costa
I’ve always loved summer – the long days seem to imbue everyone with endless energy, and there’s no better place to clear one’s head than walking the beach at sunset on a warm night. Summer is a time to relax and recharge, maybe take a little vacation or just kick back on the weekend to enjoy being outdoors.
But invariably, summer comes to a close, and just as I did when I was a kid, I find myself with mixed feelings when September rolls around. On the one hand, I always think of summer as such a carefree time, so I feel a bit sad when I see all those “back to school” signs. On the other hand, there’s something energizing about the return to “real life” that fall brings. Having had some time to relax and recharge, I find my creativity tends to kick into high gear, and I want to get back into that “school mode” that I got so excited about as a kid each fall.
Fortunately, the kitchen and bath industry offers plenty of opportunities to do just that. Thanks to technology, dealers and designers looking to advance their skills and grow their business can enjoy many educational opportunities at little or no cost – often without even leaving their home.
From seminars, webinars, on-demand classes, trade shows and product training to lighting classes, marketing tutorials, educational videos, books and trade publications, there are myriad opportunities for learning that are available year round – and kitchen and bath professionals are eagerly embracing them.
Education is also a lot more hands-on than it used to be. Amazingly cool things are happening with virtual reality and augmented reality that are literally changing how you and your clients “see” the spaces you’re designing for them (see related story, “Virtual and Augmented Reality”).
And the future is even more exciting, with experts predicting that the kitchen of the future will include everything from growing stations for herb and vegetable gardens to appliances that will not only communicate with us and each other, but also become active partners in maintaining our health and well being (see related story, “New Home Buyers Invest in Home Projects”).
In many ways, this is already happening, particularly in the culinary arena. Consumers who love to cook don’t want to give up control of their kitchen to technology – no matter how impressive or effective it might be. Cooking is, after all, a form of self expression, as personal as the kitchen itself, and those who are passionate about the culinary arts want a space built just for them where they can create delicious gourmet meals for their own tastes.
But cooking appliances are getting so smart, they are increasingly learning how to partner with the family chef, allowing users to program in favorite recipes, look at photos of various “doneness” levels to determine how they want the finished dish to look, or even enter in what ingredients are available to receive a list of possible recipes that align with the contents of the refrigerator (see related story, “Chef-Inspired Kitchens”).
Still, the chef gets to steam, stir, sauté or do whatever else it takes to make the meal just right – the perfect combination of technology and humanity.
September is also a great time to educate yourself about the different kinds of shoppers you’re likely to be seeing in your showroom. From the “high amenities customer” and the “whole home customer” to the “connected customer” and the “just for me” customer, today’s shoppers are being influenced by cultural and lifestyle shifts that are important to stay on top of if you want to win their business (see related story, “Your New Customers – Decoded”).
In the fast-changing kitchen and bath field, there’s always something new to learn and school is always in session. But with the economy continuing to surge, it’s easy to get caught up in the business of doing business, forgetting that growth requires a continual commitment to learning. So when you see those “back to school” signs, take note – and remember that whatever your age or experience level, September is always a great time to get back to learning something new!