Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and those who inquire regarding my website, I get to talk with all kinds of people across the country –both industry professionals and consumers. I get the feeling that there are still "pockets" that are still deeply depressed as if stuck in a time warp. These are mostly rural and suburban places. Although, I get the sense that business is picking up in urban areas.
Where I live in the California central coast area, real estate prices have flattened out (not still declining) and there hasn’t been any new construction for quite awhile. Remodeling business has also slowed to a gasping crawl. The K&B industry exists at either the low end (Home Depot and Andre’s cabinets from China) or the high-end custom. The middle guys have all faded away except those who are versatile in other areas besides cabinet sales (such as painting contractors and tile setters who also deal a cabinet line). Yet I’m hearing from the urban areas of SOCAL and The Bay Area that things are heating up.
Due to the demise of subprime loans, the customer base has shrank and along with home values causing a dramatic change in what motivates consumers to buy or remodel kitchens and baths. In many places nowadays, improvements are strictly luxury in effect and do not serve to increase a home’s present resale value. This doesn’t mean that it will not pay off someday, but there is no guarantee.
One thing that is for sure, the way we are doing business has changed forevermore because consumers have re-written the book. They are more savvy and more picky about how they are spending their funds. They never settle for the first bid and can pick and choose until they find exactly what they want at the price they want to pay. This situation is exacerbated by dealers and contractors slashing their prices and giving away services because they fear this is the only way they can compete for the scarce funds available in today’s market. Unfortunately, this is the path of least resistance and not necessarily the only answer. The other answers take risk, tenacity and faith which is more than many are able to commit after a few years of taking a beating.
What are the “other answers”? Stop and think about what worked in the days when business was good that didn’t have to do with easy financing or being at the right place at the right time. If those are the only things that made one successful at that time, then it’s probably best that one find another line of work. If there are aspects of your business that made you stand out among the competition (such as great customer service, internet marketing, a niche ability like great carpentry skills, interior design and decorating resources), chances are they are still valuable assets today. Perhaps it’s just a matter of rethinking how we apply our assets to the present market condition and re-evaluate who are potential customers for these skills and assets.
So, all that being said. I’d love to know how business is (and has changed) where you live!