A new year is upon us, with a new administration in Washington and new business opportunities around the country. Here’s how some of the top kitchen and bath industry experts see 2017 shaping up in terms of how sales look, where the market is going and what product trends are expected to be hot at KBIS and beyond.
Manuel Gutierrez, NKBA consulting economist and principal of Manuel DJ Gutierrez, LLC foresees some gains: “For the residential construction sector, we expect a modest improvement (mostly in the single family sector).” He’s projecting a conservative 3% gain overall, with some notable differences: Single family housing starts will increase by 6%, he predicts, while the multi-family sector will drop by 3% (see related Forecast story, Improving Conditions).
How will this play out where you work, and with the new president’s campaign promises to renegotiate trade agreements? “It is definitely too early to speculate on any 2017 impact from our newly elected president,” Gutierrez says, cautioning, though: “Global trade patterns could have an impact. Political leaders in many countries are showing a tendency toward restricting imports. If these tendencies turn into reality, we will see a further contraction of global trade with serious implications for the U.S., mainly for states that rely heavily on exports.” Is yours one of them?
On the flip side, there’s good news in sales trends. Erin Gallagher, chief of insights for RICKI, the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence, is bullish on 2017: “Based on our research, all signs point to continued growth. In RICKI’s Designer Talk Trends study conducted earlier this year, almost two out of three designers (63%) say their business is trending up and seven in 10 (69%) expect their business to be even better in the coming year.”
The growth isn’t just in the number of projects, but in their size, Gallagher notes. “Half or more of designers surveyed say budgets for major appliances, storage/organizational features, cabinets, countertops, lighting and faucets and sinks have increased.”
This is good news for the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, scheduled to run Jan. 10-12 in Orlando (see related KBIS coverage, Spotlight on KBIS 2017). “A good number of new exhibitors have joined KBIS – currently at 128 new exhibitors for 2017,” Brian Pagel, v.p., Kitchen and Bath Group of Emerald Expositions, KBIS’ show management company, reports. They’re also seeing exhibitors increase their booth size from last year’s show, so designers can expect to see more product selection. (Exhibit space growth for KBIS is up 28% over 2016.)
The exhibitor growth is being mirrored by attendee growth. “KBIS attendance is tracking 22% ahead of the 2016 event at the same time,” Pagel notes.
Here’s what you’re likely to see there, along with a new home technology pavilion and panel discussion provided by the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) and the International Builders’ Show, all combined into another dazzling Design & Construction Week.
KITCHEN PRODUCT TRENDS
“Everyone is talking about connected kitchens. The reality around interactivity and connectivity is that we are in the dark ages of this revolution,” shares Matt Murray, managing director for appliance distributor Purcell Murray. “Just as when the iPhone was announced at launch, no one could predict what the killer applications or uses would be. Similarly, killer apps do not exist yet for connected home appliances.”
One California company is trying. “Hestan, the second largest cookware manufacturer in the world, is actually developing cookware that contains a Bluetooth plus sensor system-on-a-chip that both detects the actual temperature of the pan and then communicates that information to the cooktop via Bluetooth so that the power level can be adjusted to maintain the desired temperature,” Murray says.
Induction is trending strongly, the distributor says, with some added innovations: “New technologies are emerging that allow homeowners to set the actual temperature they’d like their pan, pot or skillet to maintain. Bosch, Thermador and Gaggenau are now leaders in developing this new level of precision, and they showcased [the technologies] at the EuroCucina Fair in Milan this past April.”
Expect to see steam cooking continue its popularity, Murray predicts, along with pro-inspired tools like sous vide and blast chillers. He also points out the growth in undercounter refrigeration and integrated appliances (the latter are second only to stainless steel as the leading finishes, with all others coming in far behind).
Vinotemp is one of the manufacturers benefiting from the undercounter boom, says CEO India Hynes. “Although there is still a demand for wine cellars, [we have] seen an increase in demand for storing wine throughout the home.” This includes kitchens, bars, living rooms and under the stairs. Expanded capacity, decorative and wall-mount wine refrigeration are also trending, she says.
On the fixture trend side, kitchen sinks continue to evolve into work stations, with ledges for cutting boards, colanders, drying racks and other accessories. It’s about “ultimate versatility and space saving in the kitchen,” declares Jay Beaumont, national sales and marketing manager of Lenova, which is introducing its new entrant to this category for 2017.
BATH PRODUCT TRENDS
The unique and customizable are trending in bathroom fixtures, notes Bob Gifford, director of bath products with importer and distributor Hastings Tile & Bath. “We continue to see an interest in the unusual. Designers are specifying sinks in a variety of colors that weren’t available a few years ago.” Solid surface materials for tubs are also doing very well, he adds, especially those with distinctive shapes. Designers are ordering built-in tubs with customized patterns and colors, he notes.
For toilets, Gifford is seeing soft-close lids, dual flush, comfort height and more wall-mounted models as the leading trends. Just as dual flush helps toilets meet stricter conservation codes, faucets are delivering water savings, too. “People don’t want to think about having to save water – they just want to know their faucets are ‘green’ without losing any of the functionality it takes to have them fill a sink or tub,” Gifford observes. “In the bathroom, hands-free is becoming popular again, but faucets are still less about technology and more about style and finish. In this day and age, there is no reason for anyone to have a faucet that doesn’t meet the strict water conservation guidelines.”
Showering has to meet those guidelines, too, but also needs to feel luxurious. “Showers continue to become a much more personalized experience; everything from chromatherapy to aromatherapy, and video and music – everyone wants their shower to be as close to a personal spa as possible.”
If your client doesn’t have a large budget, the spa-inspired renovation set is another trend. You’ll see more shower panels with jets, hand-helds and rain showers being offered with easy installation and affordable pricing.
Technology has also come to bathroom furniture: “Our vanities have USB ports and lighted drawers; these ‘features’ were unheard of a few years back but now that they are here, everyone realizes how useful they are,” Gifford points out. Medicine cabinets are also getting charging ports and lighting, typically LED. Style-wise, he adds, color is a big trend in bathroom furniture, too. “Plain vanilla is rarely specified.”
Kountry Kraft’s Sales Manager Roger Yiengst is also seeing a wide range of colors and sheen levels, from 5 to 80 degrees. And he’s seeing textures in both wood and laminate, and metal finishes applied to wood components.
Expect to see a lot of creativity in cabinet hardware and bath accessories this year, as well. “Mix and match hardware creates more choices for the consumer and designer,” shares Ewa Zielinski, Atlas Homeware’s director of marketing. Based on trends spotted in Europe last fall, rose gold, copper and bronze may show up strongly as well.
I hope 2017 is a terrific year for our industry – and our country! Keep learning, keep exploring, keep growing, keep giving back, keep succeeding!
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work and upcoming New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant.