News that Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, has said that he believes that the economy is about to turn “a decisive corner with enormous amounts of pent-up financial energy waiting to be released”, has been welcomed by members of the KBB industry.
Bill Miller, MD of the Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG), says: “I fully concur with Andy Haldane’s prediction of a significant, much-needed, sales boom as soon as non-essential businesses can re-open, hopefully within the next few weeks. All the recent surveys confirm that consumers are ready to dip into their savings, and invest in a new kitchen or bathroom, possibly as part of a larger building project. Over the last 12 months many have built up savings as they have not been able to visit restaurants and bars, and holidays abroad have been off the agenda. Consumers have money to spend, and with the possible tax hikes expected, there may be a thought to spend it while they have it.”
Richard Hibbert, national chair of the KBSA, is also anticipating an upturn. “My feeling, and that of the KBSA, is optimistic in terms of demand. Many households have cut back on spending on big-ticket items during lockdown and have the funds to invest in their homes. There will also be demand from those that have spent more time at home and realised that they do want to invest in improvements. KBSA members are generally experiencing positive interest from customers. Investing in ways to keep in contact via the internet, delivering samples and Zoom consultations has paid dividends. Members have a good stream of positive enquiries that will lead to projects when restrictions are lifted.”
But will a sudden increase in demand all be plain sailing?
“Speaking recently to UK and European kitchen furniture manufacturers, I do not foresee any major supply issues, although delivery lead times may be extended. However, one area of concern is the supply of appliances. The majority of the manufacturers have been able to re-build their stock levels during the last few weeks; however, the situation is fragile. If there is the expected sales boom, then unfortunately, some brands will have similar stock shortages as was seen in 2020,” says Miller
“My advice to retailers is to be upfront with customers. Explain the situation at the very beginning of the sales process, so they are prepared for a possible extended delay in the delivery of their appliances. They can then arrange to retain their old appliances until the new models become available,” he adds.
Hibbert says: “The KBSA has been working with members encouraging them to prepare and be ready for an upturn in business. This means looking at procedures and processes to ensure that they will run smoothly, and assessing what staff requirements will be needed. Retailers need to look at their suppliers – Brexit and COVID have had a huge impact on how business is done. It will pay to understand what the impact of higher costs, more paperwork and delays may be on the smooth running of the business,” he concludes.