Following his recent trip to KBIS, Orlando, Simon Acres, managing director at Simon Acres Group, shares his views on the opportunities for UK KBB businesses in North American markets.
My first trip to KBIS in Florida in February was as part of a NKBA ‘Global Connect’ scheme, established to help UK KBB businesses access knowledge and a greater understanding of the local market when considering expanding into the US.
KBIS is held in conjunction with the NAHB International Builders Show (IBS), which together make up Design & Construction Week, and jointly these shows welcome over 60,000 design and construction professionals. It was a fascinating trip which gave me an insight to the difference between the UK and the US, and helped me understand more how UK businesses can tap into this market.
As in the UK, the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the market for kitchens and bathrooms, but as we move forward the outlook is optimistic. A recent survey on the market outlook from NKBA predicts continued rapid growth in 2022, with the kitchen and bathroom industry poised to experience a 19% year over year (YOY) increase in spending – from $167billion to $199billion, for residential kitchen and bathroom construction and remodelling.
While there are many differences to consider – regulations, specifications and even terminology – there are clearly opportunities for UK and European brands. The Americans have a long-held love of all things British and traditional, and this provides a huge selling point when it comes to heritage and UK brands.
One of the most important points that I took away with me was that the market is huge, it cannot be viewed as one market, and a different strategy is needed depending on which state you want to trade with. Each state has its own design trends, for example North American wide, the top-selling kitchen door is a white Shaker, in the north for example in New York, the mix will be more Germanic slab gloss and in the south in Florida, more timber options.
As well as differing styles, the needs will also vary, for example water efficiency in bathrooms is more paramount in California than most eastern states. Compliance and regulation is also another important issue. Electrical and water systems are not the same. Most US appliances are designed to work on a 110V supply, with UK appliances designed for a mains power of 220–240 V.
Innovation is also high on the typical US customer’s wish list. They will be looking for products that utilise technology to make life easier in the home. According to a recent YouGov survey, more households in the US owned a smart home device in 2020 than in the UK, with the respective figures being 37% and 23%. A visit with the NKBA to 'The New American Home' at Laureate Park, Lake Nona Orlando showcased a wealth of digital technology in both the bathroom and the kitchen, that demonstrated this.
Taking time to learn more about the US market and partnering with companies, organisations and individuals that are operating in this market is key to developing a successful strategy. At Simon Acres Group we have established a partnership with a New York based award-winning kitchen designer Mark Rosenhaus. In our recent podcast he talks about the challenges that US-based showrooms face, which are very similar to those in the UK – shortages of installers and the need to bring young people into the industry. We also have a strategic partnership with global trading partner 2020 that offers our online sales training to customers via the 2020 website at www.2020spaces.com
While at KBIS I attended an NKBA Global Connect round table event with the BMA UK delegation, which considered the key criteria for those wishing to distribute British goods into the US. Their recommendations focussed on communicating clearly the uniqueness and/or heritage of the brand, building clear territories to build loyalty and ensuring that stock availability is good.
Overall, I would recommend that UK manufacturers and suppliers visit KBIS to review trends and to understand how their products would fit within the US market. It is also a great opportunity to network and make contacts. We will be working with Global Connect to collaborate with the NKBA trade associations based in the US, with a view to developing a potential joint stand for KBIS Vegas next year. It would be great to see more UK companies join us.