Tradition, and a Return to Quality

by WOHe

Christmas is coming, and the goose isn’t the only thing getting
fat. Probably I should stop baking holiday cookies by the dozens,
stop mistaking chocolate Santas for breakfast food and stop
attending parties where egg nog is omnipresent.

Unfortunately, it’s harder than it sounds. Like many people, I’m
a sucker for traditions holiday and otherwise.

If the kitchen and bath market is any indication, I’m not the
only one enamored with tradition. In fact, when Kitchen & Bath
Design News charted readers’ most-asked about products for 2002,
traditional styling and classic Old World looks scored consistently
high on the list (see related story, Page 55). Furniture-style
vanities, hand-carved and hand-painted furniture, decorative
hardware with a carefully created patina of ageold hasn’t been this
“in” since Anna Nicole Smith made marrying an octogenarian the
newest way to gain fame, fortune and a TV series dedicated to the
romantic exploits of one’s poodle, Sugarpie.

I ponder this fascination with all things traditional while
cutting out paper snowflakes, decking the halls with boughs of
holly and hanging stockings by the fireplace with well, not all
that much care, actually, since the fireplace lining rusted out and
crashed down onto the hearth months ago, precluding any chance of a
roaring fire that might require care. Which is a shame, since a
warm and cozy fire might be just the thing to dry out the water
from the leak that sprung in the “practically new” roof over the
den, which happened mere days after the “practically new” washing
machine blew a hose and flooded the basement.

They just don’t make stuff like they used to, I grumble in my
best Grinch-inspired voice.
And, it occurs to me that this is part of the fascination with
things of yesteryear whether it’s baking the annual lopsided,
tree-shaped cookies, or surrounding one’s self with antique
furniture-style pieces that hark back to days of old, bringing to
mind memories of childhood joys and time-honored traditions that
have warmed and cheered generations before us, and will (if my
mother ever gets her wish and I give her grandchildren not of the
fuzzy, four-footed variety) inspire generations to come.

It’s not that “the good old days” were better, necessarily. But
certainly there’s a perception that, in years past, the world was
more focused on quality, craftsmanship and lasting value.

This trend seems particularly prevalent in the kitchen and bath
industry where, after years of collecting every gadget and gizmo
imaginable, people are suddenly realizing quality is often found in
the simple things or that, even when gadgetry is desirable, it’s
not a substitute for quality.

There’s no question that our whole society desperately wants a
return to quality. People want to live in a world where products
don’t break 10 minutes after you buy them, major corporations don’t
regularly turn up in the news for fraud, people can actually be
counted on to keep their promises, and integrity is more than just
a word that looks good on marketing materials.

Despite what your TV tells you, it’s not about the slick
packaging anymore. People want substance.

Sure, in an industry where products have so many capabilities
that your shower system may well be smarter than your spouse, it’s
hard to imagine how anyone could not get caught up in all of the
bells and whistles of what we sell. But, when K&BDN recently
surveyed kitchen and bath dealers about how they choose what
products to specify (see related story, Page 50), the resounding
answer had nothing to do with gadgetry. Rather, it was all about
quality quality of the product, quality of service and support,
quality of deliveries.

Product features, price, even profit ran a distant second to
quality. As one dealer reported, “Trust has become the number-one,
essential, must-have ingredient in today’s market, and to achieve
that, you have to deliver quality.”

Now, of course, everyone knows that a patina of age doesn’t
automatically confer quality. But there’s something about
traditional, Old World styling that makes people think quality and
craftsmanship. Things that last. Fireplaces that won’t crash down
around you in the middle of your holiday celebrations.

If we can give our customers one gift for the holiday season, it
should be a renewed focus on ‘and commitment to’ quality.
Trends may come and go, and even traditions sometimes fade with
time, but quality, like home-baked cookies, never goes out of
style.

From all of us at K&BDN, we wish you a happy holiday season
and a joyous and prosperous
2003.

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