I just changed from face frame cabinetry to frameless cabinetry. Now I am going away from working for builders, because they are so cheap around here, all they pay is wages. What is the best way to market to the high-end cabinetry market?
From contributor A:
Doing work through designers and architects is a good channel. These individuals generally have a much higher regard for aesthetics and proportion. To think you can just flip a switch may be somewhat simplistic, however. Doing this kind of work requires a level of service, a level of aesthetic design sense, and a level of craftsmanship that comes only over time and requires a level of commitment that few are willing to give. There is no easy road. Enjoy the journey.
Another idea is to introduce yourself to the customer service guys from some of the large builders in your area. Let them know you will do finish repair or base and casing repair, etc. I have a significant sideline doing this for Pulte Homes here in Vegas. It began small and now, nearly 3 years later, it is probably 30-35% of my gross last year and will probably be greater this year. And I am almost ready to hire a few retired builders to help me.
Every home you are in, give them your card and tell them you are a cabinetmaker. I sell most of my work this way. It usually is not kitchens, but entertainment centers, wall units, home offices are big.
Finally, always keep your portfolio in your truck with you. I show it often. If you don't have pictures of your work, get some right away. I'll send you some of mine to start things if you ask me.
I firmly believe that any really big changes in our lives for the better or worse begin in our mind first. Believe you can major only in high-end work and pretty soon you will.
One of my goals was to become one of the highest bidders in the cab business in my city. Guess what? I am now! I used to get 9-10 of my bids till I realized that's a sure indication you are selling your work for nothing. I started raising my prices and now I probably get 2-4 out of 10, and I make great money on every job I do.
Photo shows some basic frameless casework with melamine interiors. My point being it doesn't matter what materials you use, it's how you use them. I've seen recycled plastic handled by an artist look better than exotic hardwood handled by a wood butcher. Hope I'm not out of line, but I just feel that it's much more than a business and that fact is too often overlooked.
My goal is to go from building 50 plus jobs a year to just 12 good quality jobs. I am a one-man shop and this year I started outsourcing my cabinet doors. Here in Oklahoma, 95% of the shops are cheaper than Lowes or Home Depot. But I don't want to be in that 95%. I still build some face frame cabinets, but just for inset doors.
Most high-end clients ask us if we use press board material. I explain that this is not a bad substrate, but it has been misused in the past and has taken on a bad name. I have seen over the past 25 years in the business more doors coming out of a press board or MDF carcass than a plywood case. Remember that the more they pay, the closer they look at the job. They may have an interior designer working for them that will make sure that the quality is there and that it is installed right. I know that I have seen frameless cabinets with plastic covered boxes last if they are done right. But the idea of a frameless cabinet using the 32mm system is to save time and speed up production. I have seen a lot of edge banding coming loose on doors or panels, but very few face frames coming off their boxes. So whatever works for you, and if you feel comfortable with the way you build them, more power to you. This is what works for us and is time tested, and we also win more jobs over other cabinet shops because of these points. But it is good, as I said before, to be discussing these points with professional cabinetmakers that care about what they put out there.
Comment from contributor C:
We do only high end work and seem to have no problem in selling our products. They actually sell themselves. Once you are in with a group of well known designers or architects the road suddenly becomes easier to maneuver. The competition at this level is less than at the lower grade level. Believe in your product and others will see that and believe in it as well. In our shop we are quality oriented and everyone is their own critic. Just do what you do best and use the best of materials available. The rest will fall into place.