While 2020 was a year most of us were delighted to wave goodbye to, the events of the last 12 months have undoubtedly left their mark. Nick Jones, UK sales leader at Wilsonart UK, reflects on how they will shape business for the surfaces industry in 2021, how going forward suppliers and retailers must work together, and how installer shortage challenges must be addressed.
Integrating hygienic properties into work surfaces had been on the radar long before COVID – like many other areas of the home improvements sector, customers were demanding more from their worktops, and aesthetics alone were no longer enough. When we introduced built-in antibacterial protection to all our work surfaces this year, our vision was to bring convenience and reassurance to our customers. However, when the reality and severity of COVID-19 really hit and consumers began to accept that a 'new normal' way of living was taking hold, it was apparent how vital hygiene-optimising products were going to be in our homes.
While it’s not yet clear to what extent antibacterial surfaces can contribute to the fight against COVID-19, antibacterial surfaces add a whole new dimension of innovation and appeal to the surfaces market and we foresee that they will likely be a kitchen staple – a non-negotiable – for kitchen designs going forward. Already we have seen strong demand from our retailers for these products during the home improvements boom we saw taking place during the height of the pandemic.
Retailers: Offering more with less
In the wake of COVID, retailers will need to be savvier than ever before in how they use their space and displays to entice and engage consumers. With so many elements to consider and choose from when it comes to creating a new kitchen, surface brands have had to be creative in how they support their retailer partners to ensure visibility within a showroom setting. Surfaces are practical and tactile, touched and interacted with on a daily basis, so they need to be positioned in a way that they can be felt and seen so consumers can really visualise how a surface could look and feel in their home.
We’ve honed and refined our laminate offering with our two ranges, Options and Omega, so that we can offer more, with less. We’ve ensured a complete spectrum of surface designs from entry-level specifications for budget kitchens or garage projects, to design-led premium laminates that realistically emulate the look and feel of marbles, stones and wood. With this, we hope to help free up much-needed space while still ensuring both retailers and consumers that they can be spoilt for choice with a surface to suit their requirements.
Working better together
If nothing else, 2020 made us take a long hard look at our relationships with others and on both a professional and personal level, encouraged us to invest in people. While we’ve had promising feedback from our showroom partners as to how the first quarter of this year might look, the market remains uncertain and one that needs to be challenged together. Brands and suppliers all stepped up their efforts during the peak of the pandemic to pledge their support and it is vital that this does not diminish now. Last year also highlighted installer trade shortages, which could pose enormous consequences for our industry and the home improvement market nationwide. In 2021, we’ll be continuing to turn our thoughts to creating a better community with our installer partners and how we can be a part of an industry-wide force that can build the installer network back up.