The Changing Face of Today’s Kitchen Consumer

by WOHe

The Changing Face of Today’s Kitchen

Kitchen dealers are finding new opportunities as the
marketplace experiences the beginning of a trend in which the less
traditional consumer joins the customer mix, a new K&BDN survey

by Denise Vermeulen

Today’s kitchen dealers are discovering new trends in their
consumer profiles, reflecting both demographic and lifestyle
changes. Undoubtedly, the changing face of America is reflected in
this developing customer mix, presenting new and exciting marketing
opportunities for today’s kitchen dealer.

Consumers, nevertheless, remain upscale and savvy, looking to
add value to their homes with kitchen remodeling projects that
incorporate unique designs, upscale products and efficient
Additionally, high consumer confidence levels indicate a growing
willingness to invest in kitchen remodeling and this is true
whether that consumer is single or married, 20-something or

These were the findings of a recent study conducted by Kitchen
& Bath Design News, which surveyed more than 150 kitchen
dealers across the U.S. and Canada to better illustrate consumer
profiles and consumer remodeling preferences. 

A new mix
Perhaps the most significant finding was that nearly one-fifth of
those surveyed (19%) have seen “a significant change” in their
consumer mix in the past three years, illustrating a growing trend
toward the “non-traditional” kitchen consumer (See Graph 1). 

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (73%) of those who are
seeing a new variety of consumer say they are seeing more senior
citizens (See Graph 3). The population growth in this sector of our
economy, along with a rosy financial picture overall, is evidently
leaving seniors with more disposable income than ever. 

With an increase in average life expectancy and a growing desire
to “age in place,” many seniors seem to be responding by remodeling
their kitchens to make them more functional in their golden years
or to treat themselves to the kitchen they couldn’t afford when
they were raising families.

The numbers also point to a shift away from the traditional
household, although more than half of surveyed respondents (57.2%)
continue to describe their clientele as “couples with children”
(See Graph 2). At least one-third of those surveyed, however, are
contracting with more single-parent households (37%) and same-sex
couples (33%) (See Graph 3). 

Additionally, kitchen dealers surveyed say an average of 27.8%
of their clientele is made up of couples with no children. They
also note that an average of 5.2% of their clientele is made up of
single women, living alone, and another 3.5% is made up of single
men, living alone (See Graph 2).

Furthermore, 30% of kitchen dealers contacted revealed a broader
base of clients in terms of ethnicity (See Graph 3). All of this
indicates new opportunities for kitchen dealers to market and sell
to target groups that have gone largely ignored in the past.

Of the remaining respondents, 17% note an increased demand for
remodeling projects for physically challenged clients, while an
additional 13% spoke of seeing a variety of other “non-traditional”
clients (See Graph 3).

Building dreams
Today’s consumer will most likely arrive at the kitchen dealer’s
doorstep armed with information garnered from the Internet,
magazines, books, home centers and cable television shows. As one
dealer surveyed noted, today’s customers expect their kitchens to
have “the look and functionality they see on home and garden shows
and in magazines.”

Indeed, consumers want not just a kitchen, but “the most
functional, gorgeous kitchen space they can get for their
investment” according to one of the dealers surveyed. Not
surprisingly, then, the top three things kitchen dealers cited as
their clients’ primary concerns were “an updated appearance” (76%),
“a more efficient or more accessible layout” (68%), and “a unique
design” (36%). 

Storage, too, is a key concern for today’s kitchen consumer,
with 35% of kitchen dealers surveyed saying that more storage space
is a primary concern for their kitchen remodeling
Additionally, dealers indicated the following as primary concerns
for their clients when remodeling their kitchens: adding an island
or breakfast bar (19%), incorporating new appliances (18%), and
creating a larger space (12%).

When asked what their clients are requesting more frequently,
specialized storage topped the list, with 41% of respondents saying
their clients are asking for this. Another 30% noted that their
clients are increasingly asking for multiple-height islands; 15%
said their clients are more frequently asking for unfitted
cabinetry and universal design, respectively, while another 13%
said their clients are asking for more multiple counter

Other special requests included updated lighting, more islands,
hard-surface countertops, “lifestyle-friendly” designs, unique
layouts, multiple-height hall cabinets, multi-height uppers, more
square feet, hand-painted finishes, built-in seating, multi-height
walls in the kitchen, staggered height and depth of cabinets, a
second cooking area outside, space saver microwaves and built-in
appliances (see related story, Page 61).

When ranking the order of importance of product categories to
their clients, dealers cited new cabinetry as the most important
product category, followed by new countertops, updated appliances,
new sinks/faucets, new flooring and lighting. 

Bang for the buck
Perhaps because of a robust economy, kitchen dealers are finding
their consumers to be less price sensitive than in previous years.
In fact, approximately one-third (30%) of those surveyed said that
their consumers were less price sensitive than they had been in the
past, while almost half (48%) said their clients’ sensitivity to
price remains unchanged (See Graph 5). 

Neither are today’s consumers afraid to invest significant funds
to get the kitchen of their dreams, with 22% saying their average
kitchen remodel is $40,000+, and more than half saying their
customers spend an average of over $20,000 on a kitchen

This might have something to do with exceptionally high consumer
confidence levels; 47% of kitchen dealers indicated that their
consumers are more confident about the economy and its potential
growth than in the past; and another 39% of dealers felt that
consumers were as confident as before.

Additionally, there’s a tremendous perception that kitchen
remodeling is one of the best home investments a consumer can make.
As one dealer noted, the average consumer believes that “if he
sells the house, it’s the kitchen that will do it!”

But while today’s consumer is willing to spend more to get the
upscale kitchen, a surprisingly high percentage continue to shop at
home centers. In fact, when asked what percentage of their
customers shop in or plan to shop in home centers, nearly one-third
(33%) said that more than 50% shopped in or were planning to shop
in a home center. Another 22% said that 25-49% of their clients
shopped in or were planning to shop in a home center, while 23% of
survey respondents said that 10-24% of their clients shopped in or
were planning to shop in a home center. Only 22% said that less
than 10% of their clients visited or were planning to visit home
centers (See Graph 4).

This trend is seemingly in sharp contrast with the state of the
economy and the numbers regarding price sensitivity and spending.
So why are these typically upscale consumers shopping around in the
ubiquitous home centers? Perhaps it’s because, in addition to
price, today’s home centers offer an increasing number of choices,
with some home centers now gearing up to address a higher-end
consumer. And, as one kitchen dealer noted, warehouse shopping in
general has become trendy with some upscale consumers practically
making a hobby out of shopping for a bargain.

Of course, regardless of trends and economic statistics,
consumers will frequently choose to cut costs during projects, even
at the high end. One dealer surveyed noted that his customers are
very concerned about “the excessive costs of appliances and
plumbing fixtures,” while several others surveyed indicated their
consumers’ general concern with project cost. 

And, in fact, “budget,” “product variety” and “obtaining a good
value for the money” were all mentioned by kitchen dealers as
significant concerns for their customers.

According to 46% of dealers surveyed, when it comes to cutting
back, consumers’ most likely cost saving measure is using less
expensive countertop materials. Forty-three percent of kitchen
dealers said their clients would cut costs by using stock
cabinetry, while another 26% said their clients would save money by
keeping existing appliances. 

The remaining 14% of those surveyed mentioned other cost-saving
options such as refacing cabinetry (4%), installing cheaper
appliances, or scaling down the overall scope of the project.

Other results
Additional results of the K&BDN survey include the

  • Kitchen dealers continue to find word of mouth to be the single
    most effective method of marketing, with a whopping 85% saying
    their clients are most likely to choose their firm based on
    recommendations from others. 
  • Traditional marketing methods remain strong, with 21% of
    dealers saying walk-in traffic accounts for a significant portion
    of their business, 18% saying their clients are most likely to
    choose their firm based on Yellow Pages listings and 17% saying
    their clients claiming to have success soliciting clients with
    newspaper ads. 
  • urprisingly, despite an increasingly computer-savvy consumer,
    only 8% of survey respondents said that their clients chose their
    firm based on Web sites or Internet listings. 
  • Other successful marketing techniques mentioned by dealers
    included promotional events, direct mail and home shows.

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