Monday, 1 August 2011

COMMENT: Innovation is everything

Commercial and marketing director of the Jacuzzi UK Group (brands including Jacuzzi, Astracast and B.C Sanitan), David Tutton explains why innovation is key to drive the kitchen and bathroom industries

‘Innovation’ has become the buzz word of the decade and while it’s a relevant topic for many industries globally, it has quite literally consumed the kitchen and bathroom market. Along with sustainability, eco-awareness and energy-saving of course, the hot topic of innovation is one we simply cannot get away from. And why would we want to? It’s an incredibly exciting tool for businesses, one that can help us to grow, push boundaries and keep on top of, and even in front of, consumer demands. In simple terms, it is innovation that will drive a business forward, especially in such difficult trading times where homeowners are being particularly cautious with their hard earned cash.
The dictionary tells us that to innovate is to make changes, but it goes far beyond this. At Jacuzzi, we believe that innovation is all about creating something new, something different and something that hasn’t been done before. It can be anything from a set of small steps forward to one giant leap but for any company trying to lead the market, it’s incredibly important.
When you’re the first to market with a product that is unique and in demand, it becomes easy, or easier shall we say, to set the company apart from its competitors. The kitchen and bathroom market is crowded with fierce competition so essentially, this is a great way to make a mark and be heard. Yes, being innovative will mean investing time and money in product research and development but the way the market is going, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. Sadly, those who choose to ignore the calling will be left in the dust with the other companies who have failed to keep up. Innovation is no longer a choice, it’s a requirement.
At Jacuzzi, we view this constant need for innovation as a positive, not a hurdle, and I think it’s important that other manufacturers do too. It shouldn’t be feared; it should be embraced and rejoiced because the rewards will be reaped. Upfront investment in innovation can buy years of market credibility.
Take Apple for example – it’s their constant supply of fresh, innovative and exciting gadgets that has got people talking and most importantly spending money. It’s only natural that with any good innovation, rival companies will follow suit and make it their mission to go one better. This helps to create healthy competition in the marketplace, take products to the next level and provide consumers with a constant flow of fresh products and a reason to spend money. A stagnant market is one that lacks ideas and innovative thinking. A thriving market is one that is filled with companies desperate to be the first to market with the next development.
Innovation doesn’t always have to be visible to the end user, however. It can be a challenge to existing processes of manufacturing or an adaptation of customer services that makes the way you do things different, and better than your rivals. Sometimes, innovative methods of reducing labour, time and costs can be just as important as USP product innovation but ideally, you’d want to incorporate both types into your working practice.
You only have to look at this year’s kbb London exhibition to realise just how important and relevant this subject is to our industry. For the first time since the show began back 25 years ago, the organiser dedicated a separate area of the exhibition to the industry’s most innovative products, all of which were shortlisted for an Innovation Award. Let’s hope this decision spurs even more competition within the marketplace because you can never have too much. Another company’s success is another’s fuel to go that one step further next time. I say, bring it on!

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