Are current demand levels ‘the new normal’?

With many parts of the industry enjoying high demand following the initial lockdown, the preoccupying question of the day is whether it is likely to last or whether it is a spike.

Speaking on the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast, some retailers and suppliers were cautiously optimistic about the future, but many were still sceptical that this demand will be long-term.

“I do think it’s the new normal,” said Luke Wedgbury of Coalville Kitchens in Leicestershire. “Lots of people are focusing on home improvements, the housing market is absolutely flying so yes, I can see it projecting into early 2021.

“In fact, we’re taking bookings now for the summer, so I’m confident that this level of interest is going to continue well into 2021 and we are happy to employ new staff on that basis.”

However, Jim Geddes of Kitchens by JS Geddes in Kilmarnock, is a little more hesitant: “I think we’ll get back to where we were on an even keel.  The way we’re living right now isn’t normal, but there’s a lot of things that maybe we’ve learned out of it that can help us work differently now. For example, making appointments to come into the showroom is great, that’s been a huge benefit.

“We’re happy with where we are with sales and installations, but I don’t think this is the new normal, I think we will get back to a situation close to where it was before.”

For Neil Clark, managing director of Franke, the level of demand has been “unprecedented”: We’re all a little surprised and shell-shocked at just at how strong demand is from the market. Through the second quarter it was extremely difficult for everybody and demand fell off a cliff, but it but it started to come back a little bit in June, then July was pretty good, August was very strong and September was unprecedented.

“We haven’t seen demand like this ever in my lifetime. But I think that instability is the new normal. I think the only thing that is certain is that everything is going to be uncertain for a while.”

And, for Sam Colwill at BathroomsByDesign with showrooms in Brentford, Richmond and Fulham, 2021 may bring new opportunities as the customer brings their lockdown experience into their bathroom wishlist.

“Signs are really positive for to 2021,” he said. “There’s still a pent-up demand of people that just want to improve their homes. They may even be fearful that this kind of thing may happen again and they want to be in a much better position next time to have a really happy healthy home with all the things they want in.”

The special episode of The kbbreview Podcast was released to mark the beginning of Season Two and examines the experiences of retailers through lockdown and the bounce back driven by high demand. It also touches on the current shortage of some models of appliance and the underlying issues still surrounding Brexit.

You can listen to it using the player below or simply search ‘kbbreview’ in your podcast app of choice where you can also see all our previous episodes and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any future ones.

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