Defying the odds and trying to stay positive

Defying the odds and trying to stay positive

Tom Reynolds, chief executive, Bathroom Manufacturers Association, provides his predictions for the independent KBB retail community in 2023

Undoubtedly the last year has been one to remember for all the wrong reasons. The Westminster bubble popped with political dramas that sent shockwaves through our economy. 

We are now entering a period of relative political stability, something the country desperately needs. However, we will still be ending 2022 in quite a difficult place economically. The headwinds facing independent retailers and all parts of the KBB sector are varied, and we cannot ignore them, but that doesn’t mean we should be pessimistic.

The sector has faced enormous challenges over the last three years. Now we face energy and inflationary pressures. Thankfully, the supply challenges are easing somewhat, and through a collaborative effort, manufacturers and retailers are working together to overcome the odds. 

Tom Reynolds BMA CEO

A new phase

We have done very well in the face of all these challenges, and we will enter a new phase during 2023 with demand rather than supply dictating the speed of the market. This will undoubtedly be another challenge to grapple with. For high-end retailers, their target market is relatively insulated from the cost-of-living crisis and still has a strong demand.

I would also include some pensioners in this category. The triple lock on pensions protects their income, and some have many assets to leverage, so they also provide a market opportunity if retailers can champion the benefits of luxury adaptations.

Another ample opportunity is that consumers have focused more on energy and water efficiency than they ever have because of the high energy costs. 

There are lots of organisations, including the BMA, that are calling for the implementation of a national retrofit strategy. As homes are refurbished to include a new hyper-efficient shower, for example, there are opportunities for the KBB sector to be a player in those projects.

Overall, I think 2023 will best be described as ‘solid’ rather than earth-shattering, but it will provide a springboard into a stronger year beyond that.

Danger ahead?

There is a degree of inevitability that we will enter a recession. Still, as I see it, the danger is allowing that denting of confidence to persuade us that there are no opportunities for the KBB sector. 

When I talk to manufacturers and independent retailers, the outlook is much more positive than the newspapers and the rolling broadcast journalists would have you believe. Despite all of the headwinds, I think things are more optimistic than we might believe otherwise, so it’s important not to fall into the trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must remember that we are strong and resilient, and there are reasons to be positive.

Having a plan and adapting to the current situation should be at the forefront of our minds. Independent retailers perform an outstanding job of communicating product features to customers. Still, I urge them that now is the time to start discussing sustainability and water and energy efficiency with them. I would be astonished if an informative discussion of how to save money and reduce environmental impacts would not spark interest. My advice is to speak to suppliers, understand the sustainability credentials of the products and communicate those to the customer.

Reasons to be positive

As we wave 2022 goodbye, thankfully, some would say, I think we will begin to enjoy a more stable political climate in Westminster than we have had previously. Hopefully, the pound will recover beyond its current historic lows, which will help our sector enormously, and awareness around sustainability will grow further.

With the continued efforts from bathroom manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and installers, the sustainability message should be clear. 

Our recent BMA Sustainability Awards 2022 are a testament to those in our sector who are pushing sustainability boundaries and inspiring others to join in. Whether it is through nudging consumer behaviours to be more water efficient or embarking on a circular economy initiative, our members are working tirelessly to do their bit for the planet. If we all join in with that effort, new opportunities will arise, helping us all to defy the odds.

The biggest opportunity for retailers in 2023 is…

Consumers are focused more on energy and water efficiency than
ever because of the high energy costs, so there is huge potential for housing retrofits.

Home > Indepth > Defying the odds and trying to stay positive