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changing demographics and consumer tastes3/6
I was thinking about creating a line of medicine chests for sale on the internet so I went down to the local remodeling store to lay eyes on what their product looked like. For many years this company was the go-to store for products like that.
What I saw instead of 1920's vintage furnishings was a lot more modern instead. They no longer displayed this flagship item in the retail store. You could still buy it through a catalog but the in-store displays were committed more to mid-century modern.
A second data point was a conversation I had with a customer of mine in San Francisco. She bought some work from us for a three story Victorian she inherited from her parents. She was lamenting the fact that the local re-use / recycle store she used to find Victorian accouterments had, after 50 years, gone out of business. It seems that young tech workers were buying these houses and gutting the interiors. They replaced the vintage work with more modern finishes.
We still seem to have plenty of vintage architecture work on our plate but I wonder how the rest of cabinet land is seeing this. Are any of you noticing any differences in trends asked for by your customers?
Are the demographics of your customers changing? About half of my customers now seem to come from a different country. If they didn't their parents did.
A fairly cynical view:
Therefore almost all the housing is very traditional, at least beyond the 14,000s/f, pools, ponds, 3-4 levels and other non traditional things they have to have. We even have 14,000s/f 18th Century 'recreations' that are 8 times larger than the original.
There are a few newer Modernist houses and some older Mid Century Modern that are in hot demand, but the two dozen or so gays and progressives have to live somewhere. Not being a bigot, but it is strangely predictable who inhabits what type of house around here.
Quayles were in a 120 yr old, 3 story stone and brick 18th C style that looked like a bank or fortress. All the other big money is hidden behind gates and stone fences, but extremely traditional. Everyone else falls in line behind these 'taste leaders' and the Pulte and other houses all follow suit. With Hardiplank.
I think what you observed with the old line cabinet no longer on display is the Ikea effect. Now that Ikea sells 'modern' (and cheep!), everyone wants it. But by definition, it will not last long, so what will replace it?
You must be the anomaly David?
What age group buys this product?
Anomaly is normal around here.
New housing is people from their late 20's to 50's. lots of inheritance money combined so they pay cash, unless the market is hot, then it is cheaper to borrow of the house and throw cash at the market.
Remodels and room adds are older for the most part. People with older kids, so they add on for longer visits. Heavily bonused partners that want a show office for when they work at home.
As stated before, my shop is an anomaly, as is the type of work we do. But there are just two of us - while we are very productive, we don't need a whole lot to keep us busy. We have no desire to stake out turf in the middle of some cabinet maelstrom, with doors and drawers flying around, and data management at the core, replacing desire, experience and free will.
The owner of a local large cabinet company that makes a great product (ands sells almost 100% on East Coast) says he owns a large information management system that happens to make cabinets.
I wasn't clear, my bad.
I meant you are a lefty in the middle of a conservative area. As much an anomaly as me a conservative in Calif.
I meant the age of the people who buy medicine chests, as that tells me something as to their proclivities.
I didn't think people put medicine chest in new houses anymore?
No medicine cabinets around here. Too quaint. Besides, the 4' x 10' wide mirror is heated to prevent condensation, and it is framed in dripping gold Enkeboll, so how would a medicine cabinet work?
What they do have is more like a walk-in pantry from what I see. A smorgasbord of drugs and preparations. I have done 'bleachers' as for spice containers, but for those familiar plastic containers. 4-5 drawers in one Master Bath.
They have the money to get the really good drugs. Lots of 'em.
Our demographic hasn't changed much 35-65 year old professionals or former professional. We get all the those trying to escape what cabmaker describes in his city and build there vacation and retirement homes in my neck of the woods.
As with all things in our industry trends seem to come and go. White shaker has been the hottest thing going by far. Followed by veneer slab doors-reconstituted, rift white oak and walnut. Usually horizontal grain. And then darker stained shaker doors. Out of the 50 jobs we did this last year I think only 3-4 were raised panel jobs. Grey is still hanging on also- stain and paint in our neck of the woods.
Right now we are seeing a trend of folks spending about 50% more. The optomist in me loves it. The pessimist in me says this feels like 2006. Stacked glass door uppers are seeing a surge. Blue, rough sawn and barnwood are the edgier picks right now folks are going with. And a renewed interest in inset cabinetry.
And very, very few medicine cabinets.
It seems to me the largest shift in our customers has been both a desire for a lesser quality product and lower budget shift, that being more obvious, versus a change in the people and their taste. But maybe I am just not marketing and finding my core customers as well as I use to. Maybe I am the shifting in this complex situation. I find at 58 years of age, I dont take the risk I use to, or drive as far to get the jobs. Since my wife also does a lot of contacting new business, she has drawn back in as well. Taking care of elderly parents does put contraints on our time. Thankfully our son has taken a huge interest in the business, running our shop and getting out to contact new sources of business, and of course bringing in orders from people his age, those millenials I keep hearing about. Some of my blind suppliers who do studies and make suggestions, have influenced us to get better at Facebook and Twitter, plus changing the way we communicate with the new generation of customers. Actually I am finding many of these young folks have good taste, nice budgets and are willing to listen to what we tell them. They are willing to be educated about products. Strange thing is many of them like the concept of a small family business run by some old guy like me. Besides I am finding many of our usual customers of my age are becoming grumpy crabby old asses, more concerned with health issues and doctors than they are window shutters. I dont know how I missed out on all that.