From doom and gloom to BOOM

InHouse MD Wayne Dance believes people are ready to start spending on their homes again and says retailers must grasp this opportunity with both hands

It would be an understatement to call 2020 a strange year. On the back of the Brexit debacle, yet to be fully resolved, the timing of a pandemic couldn’t have been worse. At InHouse, we had just spent £2.2 million on opening a new showroom and HQ.

However, after every storm there is a calm – a chance to rebuild and regenerate. Following every recession, a boom normally follows. And yet, the impact could be more positive than you think.

There have been unprecedented challenges, but it has also created opportunities that were either not there before, or not seen.

I recently read a news story on – ‘Large kitchens new priority for home movers.’ With three months of lockdown, many have had the chance to reassess their priorities and, in many cases, may have changed their future plans dramatically. Without the expense of travelling to work, dining out, and holidays, many will have created a savings pot that now presents the perfect opportunity to invest in their home and improve their well-being.

This has affected everyone. With such a new experience of living in, and appreciating, our homes, many of us will be seeking to improve our surroundings and redefine our lifestyles.

Recent times have shown us that life really can change in an instant. In an extended lockdown, the home represented both safety and security and became one of the most important investments we have. Consumers will be seeking to invest in both themselves and the future value of their property.

For businesses that have managed to weather the storm, this now presents an opportunity to replenish some of the losses of three months of closure, but only if the game plan is plotted correctly.

Nobody can deny that Covid-19 has seriously harmed our results in 2020. It’s affected all types of businesses globally and compared with the pre-Covid period, both profits and turnover for factories and retailers will end the year down. However, it’s not had the devastating effect that we all expected and the Government has certainly invested in helping to reduce the impact.

Assuming there isn’t another mass lockdown and providing we get a reasonable Brexit deal, I believe that the green shoots of new growth that are already appearing since restrictions have eased, can transform doom and gloom into boom. The need to create safe, enjoyable and flexible home environments has never been more important.

As representatives of some of Europe’s top manufacturers, we have really understood the problems caused for our retailers and worked, with our kitchen, bedroom and bathroom brands, to help. We’ve needed to be understanding and patient with outstanding payments to ensure that our retailers aren’t squeezed into oblivion. Most have appreciated this and caught up with overdue payments since reopening.

We have instigated promotions through principal partners to help the wheels of business regain traction for our network of independents. This has been greatly appreciated and has created an even stronger loyalty bond for the future. From manufacturers to suppliers and retailers, our principle is that we all pull together for the greater good. Our team mentality has really helped see us through this particularly difficult period. Current times have revealed the importance of being able to see the bigger picture.

Yes, there have inevitably been some casualties and redundancies. How could there not be? However, strong business models, those with the right combination of quality and price, will always survive, and with timing and adaptability, can flourish.

So, what is the ‘new normal’? No one really knows the answer yet. The only real certainty is that there are changes and opportunities. To benefit from these, we need to adapt, and we need the right people.

We are an industry that depends on variable skill sets, but perhaps none more so than designing and selling. The value of talented individuals has become more apparent then ever.

People buy on product and price, for sure. But if it was all about price, we’d all be living in the cheapest homes, driving the cheapest cars and wearing the cheapest clothes. But we don’t.

People buy into the connection. Without connecting with the brand, consumers won’t seek you out. Without connecting with the sales staff, without loving the design – consumers won’t buy.

Branding promises and quality should never be doubted. When you combine this with a team of talented, highly-skilled and likeable sales and design people, you already have the winning ticket.

Opportunity is now here. Grasp it.

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