Bill Miller, managing director of the Kitchen and Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG), gives his views on how Brexit is affecting the mood among suppliers and retailers in the KBB industry
Of course, it’s hard to understand the exact impact of Brexit on the KBB industry, but we’ve definitely seen some effects so far.
From a supplier’s point of view, we – as a buying group – work with a number of German brands that import their products into the UK. In the lead up to the original deadline of March 29, there was a lot of debate among those brands over how they would be able to maintain the supply chain into the UK – particularly if a no-deal Brexit were to occur.
And, of course some of those issues translated themselves to retailers, who were obviously forced to think about how they would fulfil orders and keep consumers on-side.
The deadline has been pushed back to October, but all of those issues still exist and everybody is in a state of high alert over what impact Brexit will have on getting product into the UK.
“The deadline has been pushed back to October and everybody is in a state of high alert over what impact Brexit will have on getting product into the UK ”
Bill Miller, MD, KBBG
From a retail perspective, the picture just seems incredibly mixed. The nearer you move to the south-east corner, in particular around London, the issue of Brexit and the negative impact it’s had on the market seems to be far more marked. The further away from London you go, the better the situation seems to be.
I can only put that down to the strong links London has with the financial markets. Add to that the significant overheads London showrooms are likely to face and you have a perfect storm. Speaking to a lot of our dealers in that area – they are very, very concerned at the uncertainty.
The trend is for ‘improving not moving’ at the moment and the situation that throws up is that people can pick and choose the timing of when they follow through with a project, such as a new kitchen or bathroom.
If you’re not planning to move from your property for a while, you are in a position where you can sit on your money until there is less uncertainty in the market. It’s a completely different situation from some years ago when kitchens and bathrooms were, largely, sold off the back of people moving properties.
One of our dealers said to me recently: “Bill, my business has never been quieter, but I’ve never had so many quotes out there in the market waiting for confirmation.”
The delays in the decision-making process have been disastrous and I fear that, sadly, Neil Lerner Kitchens won’t be the last retailer that we see go because of Brexit.
However, when things with Brexit are resolved and a decision has been agreed – whatever the actually means – my gut feeling is that there will be a significant upturn in the market, because I think home improvements are still high on consumer wish lists.