The kbbreview Retailer Survey 2024: Retailer snapshot

How was business in 2023? Following on from the kbbreview Retailer Survey 2024, we asked three experienced KBB independent retailers for their assessment…

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

We’ve surveyed over 500 independent kitchen and bathroom retailers to find out just how their businesses are performing and how confident they are for the future.

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.

But there’s no substitute for hearing individual stories and experiences, so we asked three very experienced independent KBB retailers what they think looking back at 2023 and forward into 2024…

James Houldcroft, Hove Bathrooms & Kitchens Centre

“Business this year has been very good. Personally, I think we’ve seen that the Covid boom has pretty much disappeared now. Or a lot of that work has come to an end anyway. Certainly over the summer we saw a return to our normal trading pattern and, for us, we’ve had a very strong year for bathroom installations.

We had exponential growth of around 50% over the three Covid years and that meant we had a record year in 2022. I’m expecting 2023 to probably be about the same, or perhaps a bit higher, but not by much. In terms of manufacturers and suppliers, they seem very switched on and we’re buying a bit better this year.

Our clientele is still predominantly 50-70 year olds who have got money and where we are in Brighton, the property market’s still quite strong and property is still changing hands. We’ve got projects lined up now that will take us right through the Spring.

I think for kitchens we’ll continue to grow because that’s really where the increase in profits and margins is going to come from, and we don’t really have any concerns going into 2024. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all quite positive.”

Nick McNally, Kitchens by Nick McNally

“Over the last six to eight months, we’ve put a hold on going out to bring new business in because we’ve been focusing a lot on the office and the showroom and recruitment. So in terms of sales and order levels, it’s been good but that might not be an accurate representation of a ‘normal’ year for us.

Because of the economy this year, we’ve made a decision to move into a higher-end market, which may be less affected by what’s happening financially. That’s something we’re going to be focusing on even more over the next six months.

I think next year will be positive for us, and we’re lucky being up in Edinburgh, because it’s a nice wealthy area, and even if you look back at the 2008 recession, we still had a good market there throughout that time. It’s a little area that always seems to work.”

Alan Huxtable, Huxtable Design & Build

“Business has been very good in many respects although still challenging – unstable costs are causing client unrest, but I’d say that’s on both sides. We have to manage the client’s aspirations, but you try and do it so it’s not at your expense either.

We’ve seen longer lead times on materials as well. I don’t think footfall’s been down this year, and we’re lucky that we haven’t really ever had a noticeable lack of footfall in Ayrshire and our customers have mostly followed through on their orders. One challenge is that it’s quite hard to get good labour, and people maybe aren’t training their staff the way they should be, and the younger generation are very challenging.

Although there are exceptions to the rule, and we have got at least two really strong apprentices that show promise.”

And you can see all the 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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