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Why are consumers taking so long to make the final decision on their new kitchen or bathroom?

Why are consumers taking sooo long to make the final decision on their new kitchen or bathroom? Andrew Davies, managing editor of kbbreview, tries to answer the question troubling retailers and installers alike..

For many retailers and installers, the kitchen and bathroom market is proving pretty tricky at the moment.

At kbbreview, we’ve just completed our biggest ever survey of independent KBB retailers – in association with Hettich and Eureka! Research – and there was a clear 50:50 split between those who said the number of enquiries were down and those whose enquiries were static or going up.

When you delve into the details, however, it’s not as clear cut. For those selling only or mostly kitchens, that split is more like 60:40.

Andrew Davies, Managing Editor of kbbreview

So, at best, enquiries are unpredictable and a falling footfall was actually the second most common answer to the question ‘what are the biggest challenges currently facing your business?’. The top answer was ‘the wider economy’ but the third was very interesting.

Just under a fifth of retailers said that one of their biggest issues was the length of time it was taking their clients to make the final decision.

This is a new problem that has never featured in any of our previous surveys and is an odd yet understandable symptom of those wider economic pressures. Put simply, retailers and installers can go through all the normal processes of helping clients plan and choose all the products for their new kitchen or bathroom only to have them slam the brakes on at the last moment and, seemingly, wait for their financial prospects to improve before a cheque has to be handed over.

This naturally makes for uncertainty in cash flow and forecasting but also causes difficulties in planning and scheduling installations.

For Alex Jenman, director of retailer Gainsborough Kitchens in Lincolnshire, it’s not about clients being unable to buy now, more about the niggling uncertainty of what comes next. “We’re a postponeable purchase,” he says. “A lot of people are doing the legwork so they can budget ahead for when they feel comfortable to press the button. Our customers typically have the money but are spreading out the big spends, so it might be a holiday this year, but a kitchen next year.”

Alex Jenman, Director at Gainsborough Kitchens

Most other retailers I speak to have been telling me the same story – and while most are confident that these really are pauses and not stops and all they have to do is be patient, I am already seeing some retailers suffer the ultimate consequence and closing their doors for good. One underlying factor is that, of course, this isn’t just a decision about a new kitchen or bathroom. They are often simply a component part – albeit a significant one – of a larger building project such as an extension or loft conversion and while interest and mortgage rates remain higher than normal and, perhaps more importantly, they remain high on the news agenda these big refurbishments can be put off till the time feels right.

But that doesn’t help the retailer or installer trying to get the job over the line and in the diary as even when that conversation happens other repercussions need to be dealt with. For example, the economic uncertainty means supplier prices are fluctuating and the quote given months ago has now almost certainly increased and that could also affect the client’s willingness to pick the project up again.

And, let’s be honest, there isn’t really very much retailers or installers can do other than try and stay front of mind with their prospective customers, be realistic about timeframes and what that means for potential completion dates, manage cashflow as best as they can, try to upsell the customers who have said yes and up the marketing to get more through the door.

All of which falls under the eternal small business owner heading of ‘easier said than done’…

kbbreview join InstallerSHOW 2024 as an official content partner, aiming to provide insight into the current and future market, the latest trends, challenges, multi-generational design and more. To be the first to hear when registration for InstallerSHOW 2024 launches, sign up to our newsletter here.

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