With a rise in environmentally conscious and tech-savvy customers, Looeeze Grossman, the founder and director of The Used Kitchen Company, explains why retailers must adapt to these new schools of thought
If I look back at 2020 so far, I can only dub this the year of the ‘reno-cation’. I’ve never known the appeal of renovations be as strong and never witnessed such unprecedented demand for kitchens as part of the planning process.
Combine this with the positive decision-making being shown by Brits plumping for a staycation, and you’ll get where I’m coming from.
Underpinning all of this is a tsunami of desire to do right by the planet, fuelled by the love of nature that furloughed and working-from-home buyers have fostered during lockdown. But is the kitchen sector being left behind by all of the new ‘green love’?
Despite having 15 years of trendspotting in the kitchen recycling sector under our belt, the team here were taken by surprise by demand and never stopped taking enquiries, whether that was from someone desperate to create a new cooking and work-from-home hub, all within their kitchen zone, or from a homeowner caught between kitchens and totally kitchen-less, when lockdown came.
Canny spending was rife. Homeowners wanted the dream extension but didn’t wish to overextend themselves financially. People quickly felt Covid-19 could be the new norm, so decided to expand their footprint. But they cautiously avoided swallowing up all their savings.
The demand gave us a real feel-good factor in the early days of lockdown. It was great news for the trade, providing an opportunity for showrooms to sell their old displays and keep cash flowing. So we urged showrooms to get into their store cupboards and see what could be monetised. It worked.
Undoubtedly, a greater appreciation of nature and a reassessment of personal values has shaped consumer motivations, with as many buyers attracted by the thought of doing good by the planet, as by saving money through buying a second-hand kitchen. Showrooms also see this, judging by the conversations I’ve had, since donning the face mask and resuming visits. There’s a definite move towards being more sustainable, as a result of us all appreciating the dramatic improvement in air and noise quality during lockdown.
A constant backdrop to the story, unique to us, was our Kitchen Passport initiative, launched at kbb Birmingham in March. Lockdown came hot on the launch’s heels, but we’ve fast-forwarded the initiative, creating www.mykitchenpassport.com, to offer free digital kitchen passport creation through a new one-stop hub of sustainable activity.
Why? Well, economic crisis or not, waste seems the poor relation of the green agenda. It’s high time wasteful consumerism became a thing of the past in the kitchen sector. Manufacturers and showrooms must appreciate that future trading success relies on demonstrating a better use of resources and engineering more longevity for kitchens, to show the planet’s resources have not been used negligently. All should be playing their part – we’ve just created the vehicle for them.
There are continued question marks about the period ahead. My advice to showrooms is to think digitally, upgrade websites fast and be fully prepared for a second peak of the virus. If showrooms can do lots of business with digitally-savvy consumers and social media users, they could weather a second storm.
Compelling online visibility is a must, not a nice-to-do, for retailers wishing to compete in the ‘new normal’. If they’re not doing so already, retailers should start writing blog content and getting active on social media, engaging potential buyers with online conversations, rather than relying solely on in-showroom patter. This period has made us even more aware of the importance of excellent service, customer care and speedy responses.
Even the older generation, previously internet-averse, have embraced online shopping, getting over fears that prevented digital adoption. There will still ultimately be a need to view the product in person, but the wooing of the consumer is more than likely to be a virtual process. Although viewing a kitchen online will never replace the joy of being able to touch and feel one in person, if we do get future lockdowns, showrooms can at least have some route to market if they find new ways of making sales.
For me, Covid-19 has accelerated a sea change required within the sector, which simply had to move towards delivering on the expectations of the digitally astute. It is now time for traditional showrooms to grasp the digital nettle. By aligning their vision with that of increasingly green-minded homeowners, by adopting green behaviours, and by communicating this through online messaging within their content, they can actually become fitter and more consumer-relevant.
Every one of us needs to create the very best version of our businesses that we possibly can. The message has to be act now, or forever hold your peace.