Weather the market stormIn a turbulent building market, can a cabinet dealer stay the course and shift focus at the same time? While at first it may sound impossible to do both, you can keep to your core business expertise while widening your offerings and your market focus. The key is to shift your focus in ways that capitalize on your business’ core strengths while you venture into what may be new territory. Again, shifting focus is by no means changing focus. In this article, I’ll take a look at moving into the remodeling market and offer some key considerations for this challenging market.

The New Construction – Remodel “Drift”

It’s been happening for years: the nearly inverse relationship between builder and remodel markets. When new home construction slows — as it has today — remodeling gets stronger. When new home construction is at its strongest, remodeling grows at a slower rate.

If people are not buying new homes, they’re more inclined to remodel their current homes. As a Kitchen and Bath dealer, you must understand this and capitalize on it to weather the most deadly market storms.

You probably know, or have heard of, a “builder-focused” dealer that has recently gone out of business. Is the builder market to blame? I don’t think so. I think it comes down to the old “all my eggs in one basket” discussion. Kitchen and Bath dealers MUST maintain the ability to quickly migrate their focus to the other side of the equation if one side falls. This is the best way to keep a consistent business, even while the market fluctuates.

Today, even amidst the troubled economy and floundering builder market, remodeling is holding strong. The number of remodeling jobs is steady (or increasing), even though the average spending per remodel job has come down.

Making the Shift As a Kitchen and Bath dealer, you should already be familiar with the steps to shift your focus and bring in more remodel business. These include:

  1. An intimate knowledge of which of your employees from the builder side have the ability to effectively shift to and handle more remodel work.
  2. Where you can pick up new people with necessary skillsets on the remodel side.
  3. Which types of advertising work in your area, as well as to be able to quickly put together an effective program to bring people into your showroom.
  4. How to quickly shift the “theme” of your showroom and external sales pitch to be remodel-focused.

You may have noticed that there is a lot of frantic activity within many dealers that have been primarily builder-focused over the recent “boom” years. In today’s market, they’re realizing they need the remodel side to survive. Many of them are considering the answers to these questions for the first time. Skillsets of Salesforce and Other Employees

If your kitchen salesforce has been selling 70 percent to builders and 30 percent to the remodel market, you need to figure out how best to switch those numbers. This involves offering effective training to the existing staff or adding new people with remodeling or closely related experience. Keep in mind while you’re doing this that you may need to switch back to a builder-market focus down the road. Teach yourself and your best people to be nimble so you can ramp up either side quickly as the market dictates.

Find New People with the Right Skillsets

Look to the competition and look to related sales industries for the best people to staff your remodeling side. The best people for a changing industry are always the ones who can learn quickly. If they are working in a related industry now, would that be a good complementary product line for your business? What can they bring, and how can you leverage it? A good remodel salesperson will have the patience and people skills to lead a buyer though a complicated process, gaining their trust quickly along the way.


The key is to touch the right people at the right time, then get in front of them in as many ways as possible. There are many ways to gain the attention of potential customers, and some methods work and some don’t. The key is to make an informed choice, yet be flexible enough to change course if you’re not getting the results you need. Advertising in local newspapers and shelter magazines is something to consider. Look closely at who’s advertising there already and find out how well it’s working for them. Look into local niche publications that cater to the higher-end remodeling customer and work with the publication on what they call “added value” – promotions, events, mailings – additional opportunities that you can be a part of by advertising with them.

Shifting Your Company’s Theme

Becoming known as a player in the remodeling side of the business centers largely around your showroom and how your sales pitch works to get people there. Promotional opportunities that get customers or the media into your showroom are a great way to draw attention to your products. Are there opportunities to conduct wine tastings or cooking demonstrations in conjunction with another partner? Are there local TV shows that need a set for a kitchen demonstration? You’ve invested in that showroom; allow every opportunity to get people in there. Become more remodeling customer friendly and the word will travel quickly through word-of-mouth. Within your business, work toward creating a cultural or mindset shift among your employees. You have to get them to believe in the remodel business as much as you do in order to make it work.

What About “Multi-Family” or Other Segments?

Why so much talk about “remodel” when there are lots of other segments to go after? Well, the answer is, replace the word “remodel” with whatever segment you want. If multi-family is hot in your area, then include that in your plan as well. The steps are similar, or the same, no matter what the additional segment is to focus on.


Weathering an economic storm is tough, but how you react can positively affect your business when that storm does pass. Any additional sources of revenue and operational efficiencies you gain now can be translated into even greater profits when the market resumes its normal pace. Always keep in mind that this is a people business and your thriving depends on all the folks you touch. Take time to create partnerships with others in related business so you can help one another. Strengthen your relationships with core customers and network with other dealers and vendors to stay on top of things.How Much Money Is Your Operation Losing You?

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