As JKMR releases its latest Overview Report on the UK Fitted Kitchen Market, director Jayne Barber assesses the impact of COVID both on design and consumer purchasing behaviour, and looks ahead at how she believes retailers need to adapt in the future.
"Many questions have been asked about how COVID will affect the kitchen market. Will it fundamentally change how householders use a kitchen? Has it led to a market boom? Will it change how people buy their kitchen?
"The short answers are: Not exactly. Yes – and No. Changes won’t only be due to COVID. Longer answers are: 2020 saw kitchens also become meeting, working, and schooling spaces. Many people became more aware of shortcomings in layout and cleanability, and it can be safely assumed that thoughtfulness will carry over when planning a new kitchen. For some, the kitchen as home working space will continue, which may well inform aspects of product choice for a next kitchen.
"But does that mean fundamental change? In the view of JKMR, not exactly. What may change is a shift back to wanting a separate (at least able to be closed off) kitchen; more emphasis on maximising storage and work surface space; more informed conversations about material properties; and re-evaluating whether kitchen design needs a new alternative to the traditional ‘work triangle’ concept.
"Did COVID create a boom? JKMR data shows 2020 installations more than 8% lower than in 2019, but this was primarily due to COVID’s significant impact on the new build and social housing sectors. Looking specifically at owner-occupier refurb – which remains by far the largest sector of the market – although installations were lower than in 2019 sector value rose, for the simple reason that the kitchens being sold were, on average, more expensive than those sold a year before.
"This was especially true in the studio sector, which continued to drive budgets upward through pro-actively selling higher specified MDAs, taps, and tops, aided by households allocating money ‘saved’ from no holidays to home refurbishment. But on a less positive note, for many studios profit levels remained problematic as trading costs increased.
"So, 2020 was and wasn’t a boom year, depending on where you trade and how you measure a boom.
"And what will happen this year? JKMR does project a significant increase in installations as ‘lost’ sales from 2020 still work through the market, and new build activity picks up. The consultancy expects market value to reach a new high, since in real terms, client spend will remain on an upward trend. Yet 2021 is becoming dominated by product availability issues, and the shortage of fitters becoming more acute. Both mean lengthened project time scales, which for the studio sector, who typically invoice in stages, means an impact on cash flow. By the end of the year there may be less consumer confidence and a slowdown in property price gains, affecting the market going into 2022. But this is initially more likely to affect the multiples trading lower down the market than studios.
"Has COVID changed how kitchens are purchased? JKMR data shows pure online purchasing is still a relatively small part of the market, although it will increase further. JKMR certainly does not expect kitchen stores to disappear from high streets and retail parks in the near or even remote future; but if studios are not to inadvertently become convenient MDA and worktop display sites for online competitors, there will have to be change. Inevitably there will be more use of virtual meeting and planning mechanisms. Studios may find the best way to thrive is to offer brand ambassadorship and exclusivity, as well as becoming an ‘experiential’ environment: putting MDAs to work as local ‘pop up’ dining areas, turning displays into true room sets rather than units and worktops on which to pile up POS material. Yet, although these changes may be accelerated due to COVID, they were all in the pipeline anyway."
A detailed review of 2020 market performance, and in-depth analysis of how demographic, housing, and social trends will affect kitchen market development, can be found in JKMR’s Overview Report on the UK Fitted Kitchen Market. For further details contact Jayne Barber on 07742 180855