2023 business has been a “mixed bag”, report KBSA retailers


Cautious consumers taking time to come to firm decisions is one of the main factors leading to a quiet market, according to KBB retailers.

Speaking to kbbreview at the KBSA Conference yesterday, retailers’ anecdotal views were mixed on how their business was performing, but a clear consensus described a fall in enquires and delays in decision making.

Dan Stronge, from Jones Britain in East Sussex said business was currently ‘quiet’.

“Most of the year’s been up and down like a yo-yo,” he said. “I was expecting September to probably pick up when kids go back to school but that hasn’t happened when I thought it would, so it’s been a mixed picture. Enquiries are quiet at the moment but we have had a good run of clients in the last four or five months which means we’re busy – but new enquiries are definitely down.”

This view was echoed by Graham Robinson from Halcyon Interiors in London’s Wigmore Street who said: “It’s OK, it’s not easy, but it’s OK. there’s a lot of uncertainty in the media and people are dithering and can’t really make a decision. The people that are coming in are serious, but they’re taking longer to make that final push.

“I don’t think the cost of living is affecting our clients directly, but because people are talking about it, it is on their minds. Positively, I think that can lead to them thinking ‘if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly’ and they see it as an investment. and they still want all the things on their list.”

Luke Wedgbury from Coalville Kitchens in Leicester took a pragmatic view, saying that business was “OK, but that’s as good as it gets”.

‘Nobody’s breaking any records,” he said. “But equally I don’t think there are dangerous levels of people going under. I think we’re at a point where money’s not cheap, people are worried about their jobs and the housing market’s stale. That means we’re getting a lot of feedback from clients saying ‘the design’s great, the budget works really well… but we’re going to wait til next year’.

“Those projects will come home to roost eventually so we’re not worried. We are pretty much at about the same turnover as last year. Our lead generation hasn’t dipped but actually getting those leads converted into sales is a little bit difficult. If our conversion rate followed last year’s, our turnover would be much higher.”

Phil Beechinor from Alexander in Worthing says business for him has been ‘a little bit uncertain’.

“We had a slow footfall during the summer, but it’s gradually picking up,” he said. “September so far is looking at a lot brighter and we’re starting to see a few more orders come in but it’s definitely not as busy as this time last year that’s for sure. Overall, we’re generally back to where we were two or three years ago, pre-Covid, I think everybody had a boom over the last two years and it’s now just mellowing back to where it was pre-lockdown so we’re steady.”

The KBSA Conference took place at The Belfry yesterday (Wednesday September 28) at an event that included the organisation’s annual design awards.

Richard Hibbert, KBSA chairman and owner of retailer KSL in Sudbury, said that he was also getting a ‘mixed bag’ of anecdotal reports back from members. 

“I think if you’re in the upper level of the market you’ve been fine, and at KSL we’ve found that our order values are much higher than they were last year, but generally people working in the middle and lower parts of the market have really found it tough. But I’ve spoken to a lot of retailers lately, especially after what happened with Mereway Kitchens, and it’s been a really mixed bag from no one coming in the door to a decent football.

“Aside from wondering what global crisis retailers will have to dodge next, I do believe there’s still a massive opportunity for independents in this current market and the year ahead.”

Home > News > 2023 business has been a “mixed bag”, report KBSA retailers