Founder and CEO of the British Institute of KBB Installation, Damian Walters has vast retail installation experience including management within some of the UK’s most respected KBB brands. Here he discusses the changing landscape of KBB installation and the potential damage to our industry.
"What is clear is that we now live in a fast-changing world. Coronavirus has forced us to live differently, whether we like it or not, but I am a believer in the saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.
"Now I’ve heard a few times people referring to ‘the new norm’, but we really shouldn’t be hanging our coat on that one. In a fast-changing landscape, normality soon becomes a thing of the past, so regular evaluation and an acceptance of change is something we should really focus on.
"For installation, the challenge over the last decade has been the skills shortage – a shortfall of professional tradespeople to meet consumer demand. However, this challenge has been exacerbated by the virus and our soon to be new relationship with the European Union will inevitably add turbulence.
"What does that mean? Simply put, finding installers will become more difficult, but the added problem of securing their availability and pricing will also start to emerge. A skills shortage will drive pricing based on supply and demand and when that happens, the potential high reward environment we create will attract the opportunist to our industry… unskilled labour at best, fraudsters at worst.
"The net result of this perfect storm will result in reputational damage to our industry – but in the short term, it will hamper our industry’s ability to bounce back from the effects of 2020… The product supply chain will return to normality, feeding heightened consumer demand following lockdown, but if there aren’t available installers until next year (which we’re already seeing), then the consumer may just choose to invest their cancelled holiday pot on the garden or a new car.
"How to we combat this… or even begin to? Short term, it makes sense to pool installers, working with known professionals who meet and maintain credentials in accordance with their legal and ethical obligations. BiKBBI takes care of that via its Retail Installation Standards Partnership.
"Medium to long term, we invest in the future workforce. We collaborate on apprenticeships and we do everything we can to persuade school leavers to choose our industry for their career… something BiKBBI is leading.
"But we cannot do this alone and we rely on industry stakeholders to get behind our efforts.
"Get in touch if you feel you can help, or if you’d like more information on our Retail Installation Standards Partnership – firstname.lastname@example.org"