The kbbreview Retail Survey 2024: What retailers think of suppliers

In this final analysis of the results of the biggest ever kbbreview Retailer Survey we’re looking at the essential but often difficult relationship between retailers and suppliers…

The industry is gearing up for its largest gathering in two years – kbb Birmingham 2024 – and we’ve conducted our biggest ever survey into the confidence, opinions and mindset of the  independent KBB retail sector.

It’s our biggest ever poll, teaming up with experts Eureka! Research to conduct the survey at the end of last year, and these independently verified results are absolutely fascinating.

We must also thank our 2024 Research Partner Hettich for their invaluable contribution in making this survey happen – you can read MD Simeon Gabriel’s initial analysis here.

In the first two parts of our analysis we looked at business health, and the biggest challenges facing the retail businesses but now in this final part, we turn our attention to the vital but sometimes fraught relationship between retailers and their suppliers…

Rating suppliers

The last few years have not been easy for this symbiotic relationship so we asked our retailer respondents to rate their suppliers in totality against various factors.

In ‘display support and investment’ a respectable 45% said it was excellent or good, however a worrying 16% said it was bad or very bad and 82% said the ‘marketing and POS’ was good or average (just 5% said it was excellent), but 13% said it was bad or very bad.

We asked how they rated their suppliers’ ability to keep their promises – and, again 82% said good or average with 8% saying they were excellent and 9% bad or very bad.

The thorny issue of ‘supply chain and lead times’ were next and, given the experience of the last few years, many suppliers will be breathing a sigh of relief – 85% said their suppliers were good or average and 8% said excellent. Just 7% said they were bad or very bad.

How do suppliers rate in keeping their retailers informed? The answers were just as consistent, with 85% saying good or average and 13% saying bad or very bad.

This all means an overall rating for suppliers that, while clear room for improvement, gives a sign that the woes around supply, availability and communication have improved considerably – 9% of retailers gave an overall rating of excellent, 46% good, 39% average, 5% bad and 1% very bad.

Switching suppliers

While the overall report card for suppliers is good or average, ‘better service levels’ was still chosen as the main reason for switching suppliers – 45% of retailers picked it. This was closely followed (41%) with ‘a demonstrable success in tackling online pricing’. 

Not surprising given it was named by 40% of retailers as one of the biggest challenges affecting their business. And while it’s not a shock that ‘better stock levels’ and ‘better display deals’ are near the top with 37% and 36% respectively, they are both behind ‘more innovative products’ at 41%.

Interestingly, just over one in ten (11%) flatly said they would never change their suppliers.

Product demand

So if retailers said that more innovative products would encourage them to switch suppliers, does this come from an increased interest from consumers?

We asked retailers which product areas they’d seen a noticeable increase in consumer demand in – and the results were interesting with subtle differences between the different channels. 

‘Space saving/compact products’ were chosen by a quarter of mostly kitchen retailers, 28% of mostly bathroom retailers and 34% of equal mix retailers. Similar numbers came out for ‘smart technology’ with 25%, 31% and 26% respectively. Multi-generational products are also more sought after in the bathroom, with 30% of retailers saying they’d seen an increase in demand against 20% of mostly kitchen retailers.

However, ‘sustainable products’ are still not gaining the kind of momentum needed for this sector to have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of most homes. For the mostly kitchen and mostly bathrooms retailers, 30% said they had seen an increase in demand, but this dropped to just 16% for equal mix retailers.

In fact, roughly a third of all retailers said they hadn’t seen any increase in demand for any of these product areas.


So what does all this tell us about independent kitchen and bathroom retailers as we kick off 2024? 

It obviously says that they’re feeling the pinch and concerned about what comes next, but also see the future as being in their own hands. It will be fascinating to see what the market says as we head into the second half of 2024 and everyone lines up and prepares for the predicted return of a buoyant market…

See the other parts of our survey analysis here

PART ONE: Business health
PART TWO: The biggest challenges
PART THREE: What retailers think of suppliers
PART FOUR: Retailer view
PART FIVE: What suppliers think of retailers
PART SIX: Personal analysis
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