All right kitchen manufacturers, the new economy has arrived. According to Alan Beaulieu, president of the Institute for Trend Research and one of the country’s most accurate forecasting economists, the recession is over and the North American market is officially in recovery. Beaulieu says it will be a mild, rocky, scary recovery and that it will be hard work going forward, but that companies who are making it now will continue to make it. The leading question: Is it acceptable and sustainable to just make it?
There has never been a time where one market exists independently of other markets. Global trends and economies influence the North American marketplace. The production of many different goods is shifting for reasons that may not be obvious. Businesses need to know what is happening in other markets or risk becoming obsolete in this one.
Roughly 90 percent (!) of kitchen cabinets sold in the United States are traditional face-framed cabinets. While old styles and processes are in part due to consumer demand, new economic conditions encourage creativity in methods and products. Innovation always trumps price, yet too often strategic decisions focus more on cost than vision. Any time a product becomes commoditized, it also becomes vulnerable to competition from overseas where labor is cheap and regulations are minimal.
When it comes to kitchen innovation, the world looks to Italy and Germany for design and manufacturing trends. This issue of Surface & Panel includes a story about how Germany’s oldest family-owned kitchen manufacturer, Allmilmo/Eggersmann is adapting its European distribution model to bring distinctly- designed kitchens to the North American market. It also looks at two smaller-scale North American kitchen builders who are integrating practices from the European models into their own operations as a way of differentiating themselves from the competition and adding value to their products.
Although still a small section of the overall market, interest in European influenced cabinetry is growing among North American consumers, who are looking for less choice, and more clearly defined choice. All of the examples featured here tend toward the modern style, in part for easy reference to European kitchen trends but also because purist modern design is based on the use of modern materials, means and methods. This is not to say that traditional and artisan styles of cabinetry are tired and obsolete. In fact they can be quite fashion-forward and technically advanced. It is not about aesthetic preferences. Rather, the objective is to highlight how kitchen innovation can be found in materials, manufacturing processes and distribution methods.
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