New Opportunities in the New Year
authors Eliot Sefrin
The New Year, commencing this month on a note of optimism, is expected to yield continued market growth, as homeowners dig deeper into their wallets for kitchens, baths and other home-related projects.
But potential growth could be even more pronounced if kitchen and bath designers are savvy enough to seize on two expanding areas of specialization – one in the realm of accessibility and the other in technology.
To wit, according to a survey by online platform Houzz, a sizable number of Baby Boomers are proactively addressing aging-related needs when tackling master bath renovations. Upgrades include changing bathroom layouts, removing bathtubs and installing Universal Design features like low curbs, grab bars and non-slip floors.
All of which makes perfect sense.
According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, in fact, more than half of U.S. households are currently headed by someone aged 50 or over, even though less than 5% of homes include features for people with mobility challenges. Aging homeowners, in short, will increasingly need more accessible, supportive housing – both new and remodeled – than currently exists.
And therein lies the opportunity.
As the demand for accessible housing continues to grow, designers can leverage their expertise – and grow their revenue – by educating clients about home-related issues critical to their well-being, and then incorporating key features into kitchens and baths.
A parallel opportunity lies in the area of technology.
According to a recent NKBA survey, in fact, most kitchen consumers are utilizing only “general” technology – i.e. for texting, surfing the web and emailing – even though many say they’re “extremely interested” in integrating more technology.
As if to reinforce this finding, a newly released Delta Brand study found that a majority of homeowners agree that it’s “important” to consider smart-home products when making design decisions. Homeowners actually believe that smart-home products will be more requested than sustainable materials and customized products over the next 10 years, the Delta study found.
Clearly, interest in technology – as in accessibility – is strong.
Interestingly, among the current barriers to increased technology usage, the NKBA survey found, is that only one-third of surveyed designers “always” or “frequently” recommend technology in their kitchen designs – a trend that’s attributable largely to designers’ lack of confidence in the vast array (and benefits) of available options, as well as concerns about turning off budget-conscious clients.
As in the case of accessibility, technology in the kitchen and bath is growing dramatically, despite the considerable gap between awareness and actual use. It’s up to kitchen/bath designers to bridge that gap by educating themselves about new technology, understanding how to overcome sales barriers and collaborating with technology pros to deliver thoughtful, well-executed projects.
Market growth is clearly on tap for 2019. Kitchen and bath designers can make the most of the expanding market by pinpointing emerging opportunities and translating them into profit-generating projects that meet the changing needs of clients.
Loss of a KBDN Contributor & Friend
Kitchen & Bath Design News lost a dear friend and valued, longtime contributor recently with the passing of Ralph Palmer, whose column, “Closing the Sale,” was a KBDN staple for roughly two decades.
Palmer meant far more to KBDN, however, than merely as a columnist and friend.
Born and raised on a heartland farm, Palmer was a savvy, experienced and highly successful business pro who helped transform The Ar-Jay Center, the company he led for years, into a major building products retailer in Cedar Rapids, IA.
But Palmer didn’t hoard his expertise. Instead, he shared it – both on the pages of KBDN and as an accomplished motivational speaker.
Palmer’s insightful, down-to earth advice regarding kitchen and bath sales proved enlightening – even inspirational – to KBDN readers. At the same time, Palmer also served as a roving KBDN ambassador: a frequent speaker at industry events who elevated the KBDN brand – as well as the people whose lives he touched – with his enthusiasm, generosity of spirit and positive outlook.
Palmer’s impact on KBDN and the kitchen/bath industry will be lasting. His fellowship will be long remembered. His presence in the KBDN family will be sorely missed. Our sympathies go to his wife Linda, his son Jeff, and the rest of the Palmer family.
Rest in peace, my friend.