Over the past 18 months, I have been in the unique position to hear first-hand how the booming remodel market, supply chain disruptions and material costs are affecting plumbing distributors and showrooms while simultaneously being the end-user customer who’s remodeling her kitchen.

In early 2020, my husband and I were contemplating moving out of our first home and into a larger, more permanent house. It only took a couple of months listening to friends and family describe the bidding wars happening in the cut-throat real estate market to make us change our minds. We became the poster customers for much of what you all have been dealing with — millennials choosing to upgrade and remodel their homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

After some minor, non-plumbing related projects, we moved on to remodeling our kitchen in May of 2021. The local contractor I called was so busy that it took him nearly five weeks to make it out to our home for the first time — no worries there, we were willing to wait to work with a professional.

After cabinets had been painted — a DIY project I don’t recommend if you’re a work-from-home neat-freak like myself — and granite countertops were installed, I learned that both the kitchen faucet and hardware I had selected would take four to six weeks to arrive. Without hesitation, I asked the plumbing showroom salesperson what other options there were similar to the faucet I had picked. She was able to show me several options that would arrive within a week, and one that they had in stock right then. Can you guess which one I went with?

We walked out with a faucet ready to be installed right away because I was not willing to wait another few weeks for the one I had pinned on Pinterest numerous times. My point is — the arguably impatient nature of much of your customer base today can work in your favor.

According to the latest NKBA and John Burns Real Estate Kitchen & Bath Market Index, Q2 2021 registered the fourth straight quarterly gain in foot traffic. Additionally, more than six in 10 retailers noted the increase, with average traffic up a significant 17% since Q1. That increase in foot traffic means more opportunities for your talented salespeople to encourage homeowners, specifiers and designers to choose products that can be delivered sooner rather than later.

The market index also reports nearly half of those in retail sales reported a shift in customer price-point demand, with 89% saying the shift is to higher-priced project work. I’ll bet many customers are willing to pay more for a product if it will arrive sooner than one that’s back-ordered. 

I give my point of view as a consumer who — when it comes to home projects — will research online and seek out as much information as possible, but when it comes time to buy, wants and needs the input of a professional. 

Just like many of you are telling me in our conversations, there is nothing you as a distributor can do about the disruption — the only way out is through. Make sure your customers know this as well. And not many people are fans of unfinished projects, so take these instances as an opportunity to show your market expertise, offer up alternate solutions and show off your success stories online and/or on social media.