The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) will take place Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2023, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, co-locating with the International Builders’ Show (IBS) for the 10th Annual Design & Construction Week (DCW). The opportunities for design, construction and home improvement are endless, and wholesale distributor showroom professionals will have the opportunity to view more than 450 exhibitors at KBIS over the three days.
According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, as of late December 2022, the KBIS attendee registration continues to outpace both 2020 (+19 percent) and 2022 (+71 percent) shows; with more than 32,000 attendees who will experience the more than 400,000 net square feet of exhibitor space. In addition, 48 percent of attendees are executives of their company (president/CEO, owner, partner, general manager or executive) and 83percent of attendees make the final decision, recommendation or influence in purchasing kitchen and bath products.
We wondered what inspires wholesale distributors at the show, what they seek to find for their customers, and how they apply what is new in the industry and trends market to experiences for their customers back home.
To gain their insight, we reached out to Amy Mack, corporate showroom manager, Consolidated Supply Co.; Kate Brady, director of showroom, General Plumbing Supply; and Laura Congrove, sales, design specialist at Worly Plumbing Supply.
We were curious to know how their customer interactions over the past eight months has driven their “to do and see” list at KBIS regarding products and information.
Brady notes how her client’s priorities have changed, especially with architecture and decorator clients. “They want new and interesting products but it’s less about the ‘bling‘ and more about substance,” she says. “How will this make my projects better? Can it live up to expectations? How is it to work with? So, I will be keeping that in mind while walking the show floor.”
Mack says brand relevancy has become more important over the last few years. “Our customers are requesting specific products and brands,” she notes. “With the Internet at their fingertips, the customers are doing their own research and they want that luxury experience as well as products.”
And Congrove dives into what her customers are asking for. “This year, customers have been asking more about dog wash stations in their homes, workstation sink options and technology advances in kitchen and bath fixtures,” she says. Whether it is certain brands, products or technology, we need to stay ahead of what people are asking about and wanting in their homes.”
2023 Kitchen and Bath Trends
When it comes to trends, customers are focused on health and wellness, as well as ease of use.
“Our clients are leaning toward upgrading — a higher quality of items in line with the style and design they are seeking,” Brady explains. “It seems tied to a long-range view, investing in quality and a focus on making the home what you want it to be and not as much about how it will impact a home sale.”
Wellness and cutting-edge tech are playing a role in selections in Mack’s community. “Technology-driven products especially are in high demand, as well as mixing finishes,” she notes. ”An example would be a matte white faucet paired with teak handles. Another trend we are seeing is our customers creating their own spa-like bathrooms for personal wellness within their homes.”
Congrove agrees, and adds: “We are seeing warmer color tones coming back, whether they are fixture finishes or cabinet colors. In addition, we are seeing mixed metals and textures gaining popularity.”
Product Innovation for Customers’ Preference
We wondered what the criteria was when distributor showroom team members navigate KBIS. How do they determine if a product is innovative and applicable to their customers?
“It isn’t enough to be innovative if the innovation doesn’t also bring real value,” Brady explains. “Not value in terms of price but in offering a better solution and experience. An example of an innovation that had real value was the touch (and touchless) faucet. Sometimes I see a new finish introduced but only in a limited way. For example, a kitchen faucet but without soap dispensers, air switch, etc., offered in the same finish. Nice but not too useful. So, I am always asking myself the question: What solution does this offer and what experience will we have offering it to our customers? It can be the most fabulous thing in the world but if I can’t get it or it arrives broken, or doesn’t have good documentation, the experience will not be worth it.”
Mack agrees with technology being at the forefront, and also emphasizes the need for it to also have luxury design — with a background: “We are looking for products that are easy to use and tech-forward, as well as having a luxury design. Can you use an app or is it voice activated?” She emphasizes that ease of installation is a key factor, in addition to the product’s impact on the environment. “Products that can tell a story about their sustainability —are they low flow, what is their carbon footprint, are they produced from recycled materials, etc. — are important to our customers,” she says
Congrove emphasizes that brands with a high recognition factor and reputation are important to her customers, as well as offering new innovations/products that could expand the company’s offering.
The KBIS trade show is packed not only with product displays, but also seminars, panel discussions, new product launches, networking — all packed into three days. We were curious as to how our panelists implement what they have taken in at the show, and translate it onto their showroom floor and customer experience.
“If it is new product I see and want for our showrooms, I’ll work with the local rep to implement the program (if the manufacturer is offering one) or to create a display that works for us,” Brady says. “In years past, we might put together an event to introduce clients to the lines, but these days events have a different draw. I will work with my marketing team to decide how to introduce a product.”
She also takes photos as a way to document new products and will work with her team to review and see what can and should be integrated into their showroom lines. “This year, I will also have other team members with me, so I can get their reaction and thoughts on new lines,” she states.
Mack also has a debrief once back at her showrooms: “When we return from KBIS, we have a showroom meeting to go over everything we saw and learned. We take the top ideas/products and create a plan to roll them out so we can deliver an even better customer experience.”
Congrove takes the same approach with the debrief back at the showroom, and takes it one step further. “We typically put together a slide show of products and ideas that we experienced at the show for our fellow designers to see,” she explains. “In addition, we discuss the ideas and products viewed at the show into our daily customer appointments.”
We know for many, it’s been a few years since they attended a large trade show, so we were curious to find out if there is anything the trio has not experienced or witnessed at KBIS that should be discovered.
“It’s been a few years since I was last at KBIS and so I know things will have changed since then,” Brady notes. “We often spend a lot of time with the well-known manufacturers, looking at new product introductions. It would be nice to find one or two unknown or special new vendors. So, I will take some time to check out all the aisles and hidden corners to see if there are any ’finds‘ to discover.”
Mack takes it a step further and dives into augmented reality. “Virtual reality technology! Showroom space is finite and the ability to create a personal visual experience would take service to a new level,” she says.
Congrove emphasizes the importance of company representation returning to the show floor, which was diminished due to the pandemic. “There has always been amazing representation and new ideas at the show,” she notes. “Over the past few years, we have seen less of this due to COVID-19, and I am hoping to get back to the representation we have seen in the past years, prior to pandemic.”