We're all aware of the effects of the recession and its impact on consumer spending. Many businesses went bust and some are still struggling even now. For suppliers of costly fitted kitchens this is especially true. When people rein in their spending, internal refurbishment plans are among the first things to go. MFI demonstrated this with their closure in 2008.
As a result, only those companies that innovate or have the cash reserves to stay buoyant survive.
What some retailers failed to see however, was that while a slump in general kitchen was definitely certain, there were segments spending more than usual on kitchen fittings and furniture. Some took advantage, but most had no idea it was happening.
Nothing changes consumer habits like a downturn, and although kitchens took a hit in sales, so did eating establishments around the world. More and more people were staying in and saving their money. Whilst they were staying in though, more had taken to cooking; no doubt inspired by the myriad of cooking programs that featured on television during the recession. As their skills improved and their ambition grew, more expensive and intricate appliances were required.
One company to recognize this was SteelCuisine, a manufacturer of beautifully designed, professional range cookers. They manufactured single units to order for a premium and have since become popular through Europe. They recognized that these aspiring stay-at-home chefs wanted to put on a show, to wow their guests with their culinary prowess. As a result, they began to fit their range cookers with barbeques and tall flames for woks to create an impressive atmosphere.
Rangecookers.co.uk also recognized a shift in buying patterns, consumers were indeed avoiding showrooms, but instead they were purchasing online where 55% of their sales in 2010 came directly from online orders. So for those kitchen retailers who struggled or failed in the recession, sometimes the lack of a website was the final nail in the coffin.
Amazon is proof enough of this, the number of prestige items for advanced culinary feats on their 'most wished for' section is incredible. Although these do not necessarily indicate increasing buying of fittings, it does illustrate the swing in stay-at-home culinary behavior.
So what does this mean for kitchen suppliers? Well, as consumers become more kitchen 'savvy' their tastes and requirements will change. Your typical fitted kitchen will no longer satisfy their lifestyle and so some kitchen suppliers will look to change their product ranges to entice these people. Magnet are well-known for their TV advertising campaigns that talk about kitchens 'built around you' and they have an easy to navigate website so it would seem that those brands that have a bespoke or semi-bespoke offer have fared better than those do not. Even Homebase is trying to move in to the mid-range kitchen market by test-marketing German kitchens in select stores in the UK through a partnership with Nobilia.
It would seem then that for those kitchen suppliers looking to survive into the next economic boom, providing online communication channels and offering at least a semi bespoke kitchen offering is the way forward.