Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ring in the changes?

Philippa Turrell,
Editor of Kitchens & Bathrooms News
Okay, admit it. Who stole 2011? One minute I remember opening credit card statements with the presents from Christmas 2010, and the next thing thumbing through Thomas Cook brochures. Now the ‘holidays are coming’ Coke ads are back on TV, one of the Nolans is trying to sell me a ‘buy-now-pay later’ Christmas catalogue and Iceland Stacey (didn’t she used to be a singer?) is driving home to Dagenham for a frozen food buffet. Is it just me or has the past 12 months passed at supersonic speed?
Although as fleeting as 2011 seemed, it has made its impact on the kitchen and bathroom industry. We’ve bid farewell to some familiar industry faces and witnessed the fall of recognisable high street retail names – Johnson & Johnson, Focus, Moben and Dolphin. We’ve talked, mused, digested and even protested about the kitchen and bathroom industry – often coming back to that one dreaded topic, the Internet!
But in these shifting sands, it’s perhaps comforting that it’s not all out with the old and in with the new. There is still a question mark over Bathstore’s destiny, Lechner and Keramag have both returned to the UK. OURS Sanitaryware has acquired a former Ideal Standard factory and already begun to employ. And as we go to press, rumblings at the rumour mill suggest we may even see another familiar face return to the fold. Although an official announcement has yet to be made, the MFI brand may be set to return as an online offer. Although a spokesperson for the company did confirm there will be no kitchens sold, the company could offer bathrooms. If MFI has a focus on moving boxes, more than in-store service, could it bring life back to the brand and see further pressure placed on the high street retailer? Could the end of 2011 signal a time for ringing the changes – with needs for all kbb retailers to embrace internet sales - or is it just the case of same old name, same old business?
With all this interest in the UK market, perhaps it means the worst of the recession (at least in our country) is over. While industry experts predict there may still be tough times ahead, could it actually suggest things won’t get any worse? Well, I for one will raise a glass to that.

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