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Tuning Up Your Business in a Growing Economy

It doesn’t seem like so very long ago when the economy was considered a four-letter word. But the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s recently released State of the Industry Report paints a very different picture.

authors Janice Costa 

It doesn’t seem like so very long ago when the economy was considered a four-letter word. But the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s recently released State of the Industry Report paints a very different picture – one where dealers and designers describe the economic landscape with such words as “growing,” “hopeful,” “optimistic” and “positive.”

Through a survey done by the Research Institute on Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) in conjunction with KBDN, the NKBA found the majority of today’s kitchen and bath dealers and designers saw increased revenue in 2014 as compared to the previous year – and an even greater number are projecting increases in 2015.

The study also indicated strong growth in the areas of storage and organizational features, lighting and countertops, among others, along with a growing Baby Boomer demographic (see related story, Page 37).

But even though demand and revenue are both on the rise, price sensitivity remains an issue with many consumers. And everyone knows the post-recession consumer is very different than the pre-recession consumer. So, how do you take advantage of a more positive economic climate and maximize your success despite lingering cost concerns among clients?

Part of the solution lies in really thinking about how things have changed in the past few years, and making sure your business is in tune with those changes.

It’s not so different from the experience I had adopting a new puppy earlier this month. Initially, I was pretty confident I had a handle on things – after all, I’ve had dogs my whole life, and I have another dog who, at age five, isn’t so very far removed from puppyhood herself.

But as I started my journey with my new four-legged friend, I was amazed by how much had changed since the last time I’d raised a pup. Feeding options, vet care, vaccination protocol and training methods have evolved considerably over the past five years. Several longstanding puppy food brands had changed ownership, requiring me to re-evaluate their offerings.

New technology – like the smaller, more streamlined cable remote, which it turns out is not only a better ergonomic fit for one’s hand, but also perfectly sized for a puppy’s mouth – created its own set of challenges.

And even simple things like what age to spay or neuter have come into question recently due to new vet studies looking at the long-term impact of these procedures

I quickly came to realize that what I knew then didn’t always translate to what’s happening right now.

The same is true of the kitchen and bath industry. Web sites have changed dramatically – not just how they’re designed and viewed by Google, but also how consumers use them, how mobile applications come into play and how people interact with them through social media. So even if you had a great Web site when you first started building your online presence, you may need to rethink or revamp your site for how today’s consumers shop (see related story, Page 32).

Some trends, like the sustainable design movement, have merged into the bigger holistic design picture, with consumers simply coming to expect designer and manufacturers to keep the environment in mind and minimize their carbon footprint – without necessarily labeling them as “green” (see related story, Page 40).

Kitchen and bath product manufacturers have moved, been acquired, changed product lines or, in some cases, folded; and new companies have come into the market as things have picked up, many offering unique products that could be great differentiators for your design firm. But if you’re using the same old products from the same companies you’ve always used, you might be missing out on some of these. Indeed, this is one of the reasons KBDN publishes its Annual Directory & Buyers’ Guide – so readers can get up-to-date information about companies, old and new (see Directory, Page 50).

While it’s easy to get a bit lax when the market is showing growth, that’s actually the perfect time to “tune up” your business to help maximize your success.

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