New research highlights the mounting pressure on KBB installers and fitters in the face of rising costs for tradespeople.
Installers and fitters are currently facing increases such as material cost inflation, surging fuel prices, and concerns over falling volumes of work in the future. In response, Eureka Research released its Summer 2022 report, ‘Uncertain Future? Trade attitudes to current cost pressures’ and found that 75% of tradespeople said that the rising costs of heavy- and light-side materials are having a negative impact on their business.
Furthermore, the rising cost of fuel is the second biggest area of concern to the trade, with 40% of respondents saying they are ‘extremely concerned’. Although most say that their immediate reaction is to pass this onto customers, Eureka’s findings also suggest some possible adjustments to work practices for tradespeople could be on the way.
Another noteworthy finding by Eureka was that confidence is still polarised, but the number of tradespeople who feel confident about the future is lower than during the pandemic (2020).
Dave Ruston, director at Eureka Research comments: “How sustainable is this triple whammy? We recommend that the broader sector urgently considers what pressure it can collectively put on policy makers to minimise the impact of the spiralling operating costs on small businesses and sole traders.”
Despite this increased pressure, some installation and fitting companies have downplayed these concerns. Mark Conacher from Liberty Fitting Service said: “While everyone dislikes price increases, this was always going to happen. In the last 14 months, installations of kitchens and bathrooms have been flying out the door. The demand has been so great that we’ve all been working flat out. If you were in that position, you had to be making provisions for the other side of the rollercoaster.
“Upgrades such as new kitchens and bathrooms are still great investments,” adds Conacher. “Even if prices are rising, you’re still likely to see a decent return within the value of your home. Reminding the customer of this and weaving it into the conversation will, I believe, plant the seeds of confidence, and eliminate the doubts that can creep in when making a big purchase. We have all just ridden the storm of a global pandemic, rising prices should be breeze in comparison.”
That said, Sussex-based Alexander Kitchens, winner of Installation Company of the Year at the kbbreview Retail & Design Awards 2022, is taking tentative steps forward at this time. Managing director, Phil Beechinor said: “Due to extended lead times with our order book, pricing projects is extremely difficult due to rising costs on labour, fuel, and materials.
“It’s impossible to know what the final installation cost will be when we get to finally fit. If we raise our prices too much, we can be uncompetitive but if we stay as we are, we risk our margins being reduced. Although, up to now we have been carefully monitoring all aspects of the business and making minor adjustments accordingly, which in turn has helped maintain profitability.”
The full report is available on Eureka’s website. The survey was a quick-fire snapshot and builds on responses from the research company’s own proprietary database of tradespeople, supplemented with support from an independent merchant brand with access to a pool of trade types. The outcome of this approach is what Eureka believes is “a representative view of ‘white van man and woman’ at this present time.”