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Our survey says…

The most recent survey of kitchen, bedroom and bathroom installers gives an interesting snapshot of an industry in flux. Andrew Davies, managing editor of kbbreview, looks at the numbers…

For anyone who has read one of my posts on here before, you’ll know I love a good stat. Numbers always tell a story and while that may not be the whole one and the nuances are always open to interpretation, those stories are always fascinating.

For example, one of my favourites is that all the electricity powering the internet weighs the same as an apricot.

That’s not relevant to kitchen and bathroom installation at all but let’s be honest, at some point in the next week you’ll tell someone that fact.

At its conference a few weeks ago the British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI) released its latest health-of-the-market survey of its installer members and the results, as always, tell a story of a sector undergoing change, a sector looking for answers and a sector unsure what the future will hold.

First of all, let’s look at the here and now, and there’s no question the state of the market is taking its toll on their confidence with 90% of installers putting the economy or rising operating costs at the top of their list of business concerns. In fact, 86% of installers think the government should be doing more to support their business.

Just under two-thirds (65%) are either concerned or very concerned about their business in the next 12 months and nearly half (48%) think their workload will reduce in that same time.

None of this will come as much of a surprise of course, but it does provide a concerning context to a market under pressure.

Perhaps most worryingly, two-thirds of installers said they would be tempted to leave the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industry altogether. Almost a third said there were better opportunities in other industries and 43% said they thought the financial reward would be higher elsewhere.

As you will probably know, there is an ongoing serious discussion in the KBB sector about a skills gap exacerbated by an ageing workforce. This is a long-term issue and those struggling for work right now will probably care little about how we can get more fitters into the market, but it is an undeniable problem for the future that needs tackling today.

Many see apprenticeships as the answer but, unfortunately, not many of them are working installers with 28% saying they have reservations about taking one on right now and over a third (36%) saying they’re simply not interested. However, just over 14% currently have one and another 15% say they are interested if they could get help so perhaps there is some hope in this area.

Another positive note is that, perhaps despite the view of installers being more mature, 70% of them are interested in more training and some kind of continuous professional development (CPD). This desire to keep on top of the latest developments in the discipline is one of the reasons why InstallerSHOW has, I believe, been so successful in growing its kitchen and bathroom content.

Of course, that still leaves 30% of KBB installers who don’t think they need training or CPD, which is concerning for anyone who knows how fast technology and product development moves.

For example, the number of installers being asked about sustainability by their clients is increasing. In the BiKBBI survey, 21% said it had gone up. This is still too low given the pace of change in this area, but any increase is encouraging.

Ironically, over half (55%) said that the industry isn’t doing enough to reduce its impact on the environment – a number that has actually gone up by 15% since a similar survey in 2023.

So what is the story that these numbers tell?

Installers are worried about a market that’s under economic pressure, but it’s a market that’s changing too. Perhaps the grass seems greener elsewhere but unfortunately the same problems and issues affect all trades – I haven’t seen one without a major skills gap yet.

No matter how much experience you have, you must always be willing to learn new skills, new techniques and new areas of expertise. Standing still means you’ll be left behind.

And what happens in the next chapter of this story is in the hands of whoever comes next – and right now, it’s hard to see who that might be unless the current custodians take ownership of that issue.

The moral of the story though is clear, industries are more robust and successful when those in it work together for mutual benefit so see you at InstallerSHOW in June!

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