It’s Time, Now, to Change Your World

by WOHe

It’s Time, Now, to Change Your World

They’re here! Home Depot’s EXPO, The Great Indoors, WalMart,
K-Mart, Priceline.com, KitchenDesign online, etc. Major home center
chains and mega-stores have literally everything the home
improvement consumer wants, from high design to “on-the-shelf”
products. They even have the kitchen sink the $2,000 kitchen
sink!

One of the things that strikes me most about all the places
where a quality kitchen and bath can be purchased today is the
depth of “everything.” The customer can obtain design, cabinets,
counters, flooring, plumbing, electric, exotic, stock, custom,
almost anywhere, in one place. There is no more shopping from
“place to place.”

Perhaps most intriguing is the breadth of creativity shown
across all channels of distribution in the industry. The customer
can go anywhere to buy a good project. The lines are blurry between
retail, distribution, manufacturing, dealers and independents. The
customer is, indeed, well served.
Stated another way: One-stop shopping is quickly becoming the
primary way customers want to buy their kitchen and bath
projects.

One-stop shopping
One-stop shopping is a major reinventing of the total experience of
purchasing kitchens, baths, interior design and remodeling be it in
a brick-and-mortar store or in cyber-space. The size or price of
the project doesn’t matter. People are desperately searching for
ways to get what they what, when they want it (which definitely is
now!), and as simply as possible.

The old process of visiting a kitchen dealer, then driving to an
independent wall-finishing showroom, a tile showroom, a flooring
company, and other related suppliers is dying a quick death. It’s
being replaced with literally “everything” under one roof for as
seamless a buying experience as possible.

Today’s kitchen and bath consumer wants the job done as simply
as possible. No more taking six months to do a job. No more driving
around from stranger to stranger, seeking product, service and
installation. These days, consumers want it all, with one person or
company in control and responsible . . . and they want it
seamlessly, effortlessly, and now!

Let’s look at a few examples:

  1. It’s no longer uncommon for home buyers to walk into a custom
    model home, tell the agent they want “everything” and set the
    move-in date a few days in advance. On the way out, they casually,
    but firmly, ask if the dishes and furnishings in the model can be
    purchased and set into their new home. Of course, the home is not
    really custom. Like semi-custom cabinets, it just looks custom
    after the designer’s touch is added.
  2. Builders are having lumberyards quote the materials, place the
    order, deliver and install the product. Partnering with the vendor
    is now standard. If you sell insulation, you install insulation. No
    longer do you drop roofing off on the job site; you take it to the
    roof and install it while you’re there. Kitchen people, because of
    the sophistication of design and product, have been doing this
    partnering with builders for a long time. Now, all vendors are
    being asked to discover ways to do this. A builder is now a project
    manager, rather than a hammer-swinging construction guy.
  3. Look at your business. Semi-custom has replaced custom, and the
    customer is happy. The designer is supreme, even over brand names.
    The customer wants you to do it all, from one place, under one
    contract, with no pain to them.

Sadly, most kitchen and bath dealers operate alone and that’s
not a good place to be these days. The buyer is heading in the fast
lane to one-stop shoppping. And, the kitchen and bath industry, for
the most part, doesn’t have a clue.

Currently, one-stop shopping is only available at The EXPO, The
Great Indoors and major design centers. These outlets have moved in
this direction because they’re smart, they have money and they can
pay to create the future. They know the industry is changing.

You be smart, too! Understand that the trend to one-stop
shopping one way or the other will change your future. Wonderful
things are happening in the world of residential interiors. The
consumer is buying ideas and options that are grand, glorious, and
have mega-depth. They want to buy it all, at one place, in the
shortest time possible, with as little “pain” as
possible. 

Alliances critical
I think the best opportunity for independent kitchen/bath dealers
to be the steamroller and not the highway is to form a local
alliance. Create a congruous group of labor, vendors, artisans and
others who agree to partner with each other harmoniously. The
objective: Do what the one-stop shopping leaders do, without
investing millions of dollars in mega floor space, hundreds of
employees, etc.

The establishment of these kinds of alliances is easier than you
think. The trade professionals necessary to execute a project join
forces to create perfect, seamless service for the customer. Each
vendor covers the project from a different perspective. Together,
they form a network that covers “everything” under one contract,
managed by one person or firm.

Leading the consumer charge to one-stop shopping will not be
easy. People will have to stand-up and stick their proverbial necks
out. You’ll have to make waves. But it’s been done before. There
are many people who moved the kitchen and bath industry into the
forefront of the residential construction market.

Now, it’s your turn.

To begin thinking intelligently about reinventing the kitchen
and bath industry’s delivery system, you need to understand your
customers and what’s important to them. How can you serve them
without competing in average product, mass production and killer
low-margin pricing? How can you provide the benefits of one-stop
shopping, even if not under one roof?

First, adapt the term “strategic alliance” as your war cry.
Then:
A. Find complementary businesses whose customers need your
products, services, labor, etc.
 
B. Develop relationships with those individuals who have direct
client contact.
 
C. Search out who and what their customers need and what you can
help them provide.
 
D. Set goals with your partner to help them increase their business
via the alliance.
 
E. Begin, keep focused on and discover how the alliance can bring
the powerful benefits of one-stop shopping to the customer and,
quite frankly, to the pockets of the alliance members.

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