Kate Bailey is the director of Showrooms at Ferguson Enterprises. In preparation for the year ahead, PHC News spoke with Bailey to garner her professional opinion on what to expect for 2016. Following is her insight, which is based on a thorough assessment of 2015.
PHC: What are the trends that impacted the Kitchen & Bath industry the most in 2015?
KB: The biggest trend we saw impacting the Kitchen & Bath industry was home automation. As more builders, contractors and designers are working on projects with a diverse, technologically savvy client base, they are requesting products that accommodate their customers’ need for customization, integration and automation. We’ve seen a lot of manufacturers respond to that need by creating products that allow for individual personalization via technology and integration for the smart home.
PHC: For Ferguson specifically, which Kitchen & Bath product categories had the strongest sales growth in 2015?
KB: Ferguson saw healthy growth in all product categories, and we expect the same in the year ahead. While we have become a major player in the lighting industry, we continue to see incredible sales growth in lighting, as it is still a relatively new category for our organization. More than 400 of our associates are ALA-certified and we are committed to education and training on this ever-changing product category.
PHC: Were there trends in lighting that you found correlated with the sales growth?
KB: In 2015, the use of LED as a light source, especially in decorative light fixtures was a prevailing trend. LED lighting was originally introduced because of regulations; however, consumers are requesting products that are high-efficiency, eco-friendly, and low-maintenance. As a result, manufacturers are creating eco-friendly products, and we’ve seen the emergence of decorative LED fixtures that beautifully showcase form and efficiency.
PHC: What about plumbing fixtures and faucets? What noteworthy insights did you all gain from 2015?
KB: Gold finishes for plumbing fixtures and faucets were a strong trend in 2015. We also continue to see the rise of the freestanding tubs. The styling is shifting away from claw-foot tubs and we now see more modern designs, showcasing a geometric shape. The biggest trend we saw in 2015 in the plumbing category was digital and customized showering. In fact, customization is a huge trend that we expect to continue into 2016, as manufacturers are creating a wide variety of products that allow the consumer to tailor key details, like customizable faucet handles.
PHC: Personalization, how is that translating in terms of actual sales?
KB: The customer has more influence on product design and functionality than ever. With personalization, the design is really about providing a variety of options and features to meet the customers’ needs. Since it is a relatively new trend, it’s hard to translate in terms of actual sales. But, we ensure these options are available and/or on display in our showrooms so our customers have a firsthand look at what’s new and available, and how they can make their own “mark” on their kitchen or bath design!
PHC: There is buzz about a “tech bubble” burst, of sorts, coming in our industry. What have you all been monitoring in terms of technology and its integration in products?
KB: We’re observing the trend and reacting to consumer adoption. While we see more products on the market with technology integration, automation, and/or mobile device control, it’s too early to determine the share that these types of products will eventually account for. We are optimistic about technology and feel that we have a responsibility to educate our customers on what is available and on the market. It is a delicate balance. Ultimately, we sell them what they are comfortable with using and is the right fit for their homes!
Our associates engage in continual training on new product features and innovations, so they are excited about the technology advances and see them as an opportunity to educate builders, contractors, designers and homeowners about ways these products make their lives easier.