The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) MD Bill Miller said that it was a ‘sad admission’ that the KBB industry has known about the skills shortage for years but still allowed it to happen.
Speaking exclusively to kbbreview at its recent AGM, Miller said: “We have to remember that we are a multimillion-pound industry. In a way, it is quite a sad admission that we have all known this issue has been happening but have allowed it to happen.”
Miller spoke highly of The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) chief executive Damian Walters, who has been warning about the skills shortages for many years. Miller said: “Walters was talking about installers and shortages years ago and, at the time, his was a voice in the wilderness and now it has come to the forefront as everything he has predicted has come true. Now people are actually waking up to this issue.”
Addressing members at the AGM, he highlighted that, even compared with supply shortages, one of the biggest issues they are facing is finding new staff. He said: “There has been a bigger issue in our marketplace for many years and, if you are watching the news – and we are not alone in this in our industry – and that is the skills shortage.
“I know speaking to many members here how you are looking to recruit designers, salespeople, installers, electricians. It is a big problem at the moment and we are just not attracting enough young people into our industry.”
The ageing population of KBB business owners is another worry for Miller, as there may not be enough young people to take over showrooms in a couple of decades’ time. He said: “It might be a shocking statistic, but the average age of an independent business owner in the UK is 60. What is our industry going to look like in 10 to 20 years’ time? Are there enough young people coming through into the industry that will be the business owner of the future?
“This is an issue that, as an industry, we must address, and we must come together as retailers, suppliers and buying groups and find a solution to solve these problems.”
Although Miller admitted he does not have the answers to the installer crisis, he does have a few suggestions. To start with, he believes all key stakeholders should get together to try to solve these issues. He suggested having something similar to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) in America. The group, without their own agenda, can come together and brainstorm solutions to industry problems like the skills shortage.
Another way to get young blood into the KBB industry, he suggested, is going to universities and showing students – even in adjacent fields like interior design or architecture – what a good industry it is and encouraging them to join.