When it comes to the home renovation and remodeling business, appliance dealers are often an afterthought. Consumers looking to upgrade their kitchens will first think about the splashy items on the checklist like cabinetry, countertops, the sink, new light fixtures and even the cabinet hardware before they put a thought to what appliances will fill in the holes between all of those things.
And, if we learned anything from the past few years, it’s that consumers see the value in those renovation and remodel projects. Homeowners really picked up the pace during the pandemic, and the rate of renovation hasn’t slowed down since.
So, how do you get in on the ground floor of those discussions as an appliance dealer?
The answer appears to be right in front of us, and it’s not as daunting a task as you might think: Get into the remodeling business.
If you look beyond the pure number of renovation projects and dig into the data, what you’ll find is that consumers are more often opting to take the simple replacement or refacing route. In fact, the largest sales uptick in the remodeling business is in the nonstructural segment. Homeowners do not want tradesmen in their house for up to a year with a full-blown gutting of the room. Fast “in-and-out” projects are the craze.
A homeowner can get that same new-kitchen (or new-bathroom) feel by simply refacing those cabinets, swapping in a new countertop, changing the decorative lighting, and maybe laying a new floor — all without having to gut the entire kitchen and spend months eating out of a refrigerator in the garage or doing dishes in a bathtub.
On the surface, the thought of getting into the remodeling business might seem overwhelming. However, all you need to complete these medium-grade jobs is a handyman/painter (that does cabinets refinishing or installs new cabinets and hardware), a plumber for the sinks and faucets, an electrician for lighting installation, a flooring/tile installer and a countertop fabricator that handles everything from the estimates to installation. And those don’t all need to be in-house professionals that are part of your team. They can be contractors in your network whom you trust and are confident in.
The core competencies that you would need to bring in house, if this is a path you’re interested in going down, are design and project management.
A designer can be your secret weapon. They become the creative heartbeat in every project, designing interiors and delivering a final cosmetic product that perfectly reflects the customer. They need to listen carefully and capture homeowner’s dreams. Produce visual renditions of the space, create “mood boards” and then work within the framework of what elements are in stock, brands carried by the stores and the best values. A designer must balance painting a high impact Picasso and creating a new space on budget.
The Project Manager
You have a retail business to run. Managing the renovation projects isn’t something that you should be down in the weeds working on. Instead, bring in a project manager. While they should have a background in construction, they should never be the one picking up a single tool. Their experience is in running crews, identifying, and managing quality sub-contractors. A project manager must focus on building a team that is committed to quality craftsmanship. They hold the hands of the homeowner through every step, they come out and take the “before” photos and manage expectations of what a work zone looks like. The best remodelers say they rarely get handshakes after inspecting a completed project – only long hugs.
Your role in all of this is what it has always been since day one. You manage the supplier relationships, marketing your company’s message, and, of course, ordering quality products.
Here’s the litmus test on this concept and if it’s right for you: How can Amazon or any future dot-com ever offer full-service custom design, coordinate construction projects and keep the homeowner in the know every step of the way? They can’t. And that’s where kitchen and bath retailers can step in to make these impossible tasks possible for homeowners.
Become that resource for your customer. Be their go-to expert for their kitchen (and bath) needs and put yourself front and center in those conversations. Not only are you setting yourself up to win more of that appliance budget. You’re opening a whole new potential revenue stream for your business.
Mark Spear is director of business development for Nationwide Marketing Group.