Emerging from the COVID Rubble

"While the COVID-19 crisis is uniquely challenging, there’s little doubt that our industry will respond with intelligence, resourcefulness, compassion and, above all, grit.”

authors Eliot Sefrin | May 1, 2020

Companies across the entire spectrum of the kitchen and bath industry are doubtless in uncharted waters these days, as they navigate the unprecedented combination of health concerns, business challenges and economic uncertainty tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses in all market sectors remain in various states of turmoil as they scramble to implement strategies in response to the novel coronavirus. Revenue projections have been discarded, remodeling decisions postponed, employees furloughed, supply chains disrupted, trade shows cancelled, companies shuttered or forced to operate remotely. At times, the unwonted public-health crisis has seemed intimidating, frightening, baffling and downright demoralizing.

And yet, even amidst the turmoil and carnage wrought by the coronavirus outbreak, encouraging signs of resilience, adaptability, optimism, courage and hope are managing to emerge.

A recent survey by Kitchen & Bath Design News found, for example, that a sizable number of dealers and designers are finding innovative and productive ways to utilize their time in the midst of the crisis, attending to business imperatives they generally don’t have the time or the inclination to address.

A significant number tell KBDN that they’re using the relative downtime to better organize their operations. Many say they’re researching new products or business practices, ramping up their social media efforts or other communications, investing in online training and/or improving the skills of their staff. New supplier relationships are being formed, and existing ones strengthened. Protocols are being established for remote workers. Strategic plans, virtual showrooms and marketing strategies are being developed.

In other words, companies are adapting to new realities, redefining their operations and finding new ways to function in an effort to emerge from the COVID-19 rubble stronger, smarter and better positioned for when business conditions improve.

And conditions no doubt will.

It’s important to remember, especially now, that strong market fundamentals were in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, with significant growth being forecast for residential construction, home sales and remodeling. Pent-up demand should only boost recovery once the cloud of the virus lifts.

Indeed, there’s a strong likelihood that the kitchen and bath industry may even witness parallels to the rebound evidenced in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse, providing opportunities for companies, products and features that resonate with whatever the “new normal” is.

There’s already talk, for example, about a concept called “Life From Home,” the notion that post-coronavirus priorities and lifestyles could be largely reconfigured around a growing sense of home as a safe haven – a place to gather in, bond, work from and invest in.

All this is something to be noted – even celebrated – as our industry struggles to find its footing.

It’s important to remember, too, that the kitchen and bath industry has been through major challenges before: economic calamities, natural disasters and seismic shifts fueled by the very nature of a vibrant, fashion-driven industry. We’ve witnessed the rapid evolution of design, product and lifestyle trends, changes in family composition, an ever-changing customer base, entire new forms of competition and the advent of technological advances that have literally redefined the way companies design, sell, market and manage their business.

And through it all, our industry has not only survived, it has flourished and prospered. We’ve proven time and again that this is an industry of tough-minded, resourceful survivors, people who’ve persevered and proven adaptive, forward-thinking and, more than anything, resilient.

And we’ll prove that once again.

While the COVID-19 crisis is uniquely daunting, there’s little doubt that our industry will respond with intelligence, resourcefulness, compassion and, above all, grit – making wise decisions, supporting customers, rallying employees and leaning, as always, on each other to find our way through.

In many palpable ways, we already are. ▪

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