Bill Miller, managing director, KBBG
Q: How’s business going?
A: The KBBG is having a record sales year and this, of course, reflects the success of our members. Since the showrooms reopened after lockdown back in April 2021, new kitchen and bathroom sales have been very strong. Our members have reported that many of their customers are undertaking a complete house renovation, which includes a new kitchen and bathroom, and sometimes multiple bathrooms. Recent consumer surveys have indicated that a kitchen renovation is the most popular home improvement and this trend shows no sign of diminishing as we go through 2022.
Q: What are the main challenges facing the sector and how are you tackling them?
A: One of the industry’s biggest challenges is how we attract more young people into our businesses. Most of the independent kitchen and bathroom business owners that I meet are in their sixties and older. So, often their children do not want to join the business and, sadly, over the next few years, many of these businesses will either be sold or will close altogether.
Unless action is taken now, we will see a steady decline in the number of UK independent KBB retailers. Our industry needs to come together to find ways to make the sector a more attractive proposition. The KBB industry is often viewed as sales, rather than being design-led, and this needs to change if we are to attract the right calibre of young graduates.
Q: How do you view the current health of the UK KBB market? In what ways could it improve?
A: Despite the challenges, most of our members had an excellent trading year in 2021, with high levels of enquiries and orders. My view is that the first half of 2022 will see much of the same, as there is a significant number of consumers wanting to renovate their home but have delayed due to stock and labour shortages. These customers will come into the market in 2022. However, rising costs and increasing stock shortages may well dampen down the market as we move through the second half of 2022. There will also be additional demands on family spending, with the pull of a big foreign holiday competing with a house renovation project. One option for retailers is to offer their customers consumer credit, by doing so the customer can still have their new kitchen as well as a family holiday.
Q: How do you think the relationship between supplier and retailer is changing?
A: I think the relationship between supplier and retailer is changing and this is driven by several factors. Many suppliers have significantly reduced their field sales teams, so face-to-face contact between the supplier and retailer is greatly reduced and has been replaced by online and virtual communications. Some retailers have reported that they rarely see any suppliers’ sales managers. That is why exhibitions such as the kbb show are a great way for retailers to re-engage with both existing, but importantly, potential new suppliers.
Q: If you were opening a retail showroom in this market, what would your strategy be?
A: With the current consumer focus on the home, there has probably never been a better time to enter the KBB retail market. Our advice is to specialise in suppliers and brands that meet the needs of the local consumers, and that offer the best support to a new business. Ensure that the showroom, website and online presence is as good as it possibly can be. Join a buying group so that you are supported as part of a community of like-minded retailers.
Q: How does it feel being back at events like kbb Birmingham and how important are they to the future of the industry?
A: After such a difficult and challenging period, it’s fantastic to be able to attend the kbb Birmingham exhibition once more. Nothing can beat the face-to-face interaction and the chance to meet so many of our existing and new customers. The show is the only trade exhibition in the UK dedicated to the KBB market – it is such a great networking event and an opportunity for retailers to re-establish contact with suppliers, as well as finding some exciting new opportunities. We look forward to welcoming everyone to our stand.