amec has recently closed a Strategic Alliance Partnership with The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This association represents nearly 50,000 North American kitchen and bath industry professionals and are the owners of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). This agreement will help to connect amec ascon members with know-how and insights about the North American kitchen and bath market. To learn more about NKBA & KBIS, its value proposition for Spanish companies, as well as opportunities for companies in the sector in the American market, Albert Mira, amec ascon Business Unit Director, interviewed Suzie Williford, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer of NKBA.
1. First and foremost, could you briefly describe the NKBA, provide some data, and explain its role in the development of the kitchen and bath industry in the United States?
The NKBA was formed in 1963 by a group of forward-thinking kitchen dealers/designers who wished to professionalize the growing kitchen design and construction industry. Since then, the all-industry association has grown to 50,000 members comprising all facets of the kitchen and bath marketplace – including manufacturers, distributors, showrooms, retailers, kitchen and bath dealers, designers, and industry partners. As the only all-industry association serving the residential design and construction segment, the association is uniquely positioned to represent the interests of the entire industry raising awareness for the importance of creating safe, functional, and beautiful kitchens and baths. In 1964, the NKBA created the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Coming up on its 60th year, KBIS is co-located with the International Builders Show (IBS), creating Design and Construction Week. Billed as the largest residential design and construction event in North America, the show welcomes over 115,000 attendees, 1500 exhibiting companies (95 of whom are international) on 100,000 sq meters of space.
2. What is your relationship with KBIS? What would you emphasize about this trade show as an attraction for Spanish companies in the sector to visit or, even better, participate as exhibitors?
The NKBA owns the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. February begins the 60th year of the event that originated as a platform for manufacturers and distributors to share their products, programs, and services with the Kitchen dealer. Today both kitchen and bath manufacturers and to-the-trade professionals, from all over the world, attend. North American design professionals are constantly seeking new products and services to offer the North American consumer. This market is fascinated by European designed and manufactured products. Consumers appreciate the provenance and authenticity associated with Europe and the UK – especially when the products have a heritage and level of craft not readily found in North America. Any Spain company looking to grow its presence in North America and has a differentiated product to offer, has a strong chance of findacksplacing an interested audience. It is important, however, that after-sale parts and service, installation training and access to knowledgeable sales personnel be readily available.
The NKBA Global Connect business development program is designed to help companies evaluate opportunities, manage their risk, and define a pathway to the market.
3. What do you consider to be the primary opportunities for Spanish companies in the U.S. kitchen and bath market? Are there specific niches or trends they should leverage?
The primary vertical categories interesting to kitchen and Bath designers/dealers are: cabinetry/European Kitchen Furniture, surfaces (floors, countertops/worktops, backsplashes), lighting – task and ambient including in appliances, undercounter/in drawers and storage areas, appliances – cooling and cooking and growing – hydroponic stations, green walls etc., Decorative and Functional plumbing and hardware – taps, sinks, pulls, glides, etc. These five verticals comprise the key kitchen and bath areas of interest. That said, the designers, dealers and showrooms are always on the hunt for new, innovative materials, finishes, capabilities. Spain is appreciated by the North American market as a design innovator. Products carrying the Spain provenance have a very special value to Americans.
4. What are the most significant barriers that Spanish companies face when trying to enter and compete in the U.S. kitchen and bath market? Are there any anticipated changes that could ease entry in the future?
Not unique to Spain, the barriers to entry to the North American kitchen and bath market are wrapped up in our go-to-market complexity. Very few kitchens or bathrooms may be purchased as a complete package at a single retail location. Especially higher end, more expensive kitchens and baths are designed and specified by designers who may or may not work for a kitchen and bath dealer. Additionally, most of the product categories like appliances, surfacing materials, plumbing fixtures are sold separately at different specialty showrooms. Manufacturers need to understand the nature of the distribution channel that is right for them and how best to connect. Additionally ensuring replacement parts and pieces are easily accessible as well as having trained installers domestically to handle complex installations are key. North American codes and regulations are also important to understand. These often vary by state or province, so it is important to partner with sales and distribution teams who understand the nuances of the various requirements.
5. After meeting with amec member companies, what is your impression of their ability to meet the demands and expectations of the U.S. market? What would you highlight as strengths and areas for improvement?
We believe the amec members are very clear about the opportunities and challenges presented by the North American kitchen and bath marketplace. To truly learn and understand the subtleties we would recommend anyone considering venturing into the North American market join our Global Connect Delegation program at KBIS 2024. It is a low risk, comfortable way to explore, meet and test ideas and get high level answers to concerns. Understanding the size and scope of the market as well as understanding the people who are involved in the industry is a great way to expand knowledge and make more informed decisions.
6. Based on your experience, what recommendations would you offer to Spanish companies looking to enter or expand in the U.S. kitchen and bath market?
The NKBA Global Connect program is designed to help any sized company uncover the North American kitchen and bath market. Access to experts in the industry through our Advisors as well as through our rich market research library are two important benefits. Additionally, we can make connections with other vertical industry groups that can assist with credentialing and compliance questions. Our aim is to reduce the risk for any K+B manufacturer entering the market.
7. Finally, how do you see the future of the kitchen and bath industry in the United States? Is there any particular aspect you would like to highlight?
Americans love their kitchens and baths. These spaces have disproportionately taken over the majority of the living spaces in the home. Kitchens continue to expand as families look to their kitchens as the hub of the home with multifunctional attributes. Baths, especially the primary bath, have taken on the role of in-home sanctuary/spa. Multiple sinks, showers, free-standing tubs, steam showers, healthy toilets, heated floors, music, chromotherapy all driven by integrated voice activated technology have changed the nature of the bathroom. And kitchens and baths are usually the first spaces to be remodeled and updated, bringing in the newest capabilities and technologies as well. This $179 Billion marketplace is ripe for the picking.
Thank you very much, Ms. Williford, see you soon!