Storms are Brewing on the Horizon for Kitchen and Bath Businesses

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but it is time to throw up the dark blue/purple flags that indicate sharks are in the water. Please keep in mind that these forecasts are not written in stone but purely my thoughts based on observations of changes that are taking place.

I hate to say this, but I don’t think I would be doing anyone a favor if I told them that “steady as she goes” would be the right strategy based on future conditions.

If this number doesn’t send a wake-up call, then I don’t know what would: By the end of 2024 (5 years), I believe that 25% of existing kitchen and bath dealers will be out of business or acquired by a larger company. This means 4-5 thousand less dealers in the industry.

Wow! That’s a bold statement Thad and how do the hell do you come to that conclusion? Well, maybe because I see a perfect storm coming and most people are ignoring it or just don’t know what to do next.


Here are the factors in play and the most likely companies to drop from the landscape:

  • Wren Kitchens and the other multi-store retailers (Yes, from what I’ve heard, Wren Kitchens is coming to the states next Spring. Please check out the disruption they caused in the U.K.
  • The economy – the writing is on the wall. A softening will occur in the next 6-12 months and experts are predicting that a possible long, shallow recession is imminent. A borderline inverted yield curve, unstable global economy (Germany currently has negative interest rates), tariff disputes, and corporate balance sheets all lead to this. (the last major recession was largely attributed to household balance sheets)
  • On-line cabinet sales – Everyone looks at it and says it’s just a small percentage of sales but it’s also the fastest growing channel. If it grew to 5% of the market, that would equate to roughly 1.1 billion in cabinet sales and would be the equivalent to 1000 dealers. You can see what would happen when this number doubles to 10%.
  • Consumers – yep, they will want a better experience that is faster, easier, engaging, and at a great value. Guess what? It’s already happening. Millennials will be the #1 consumer and they like to shop from home.
  • The price of the average cabinet continues to go down even with tariffs in place
  • There will be margin compression because of online sales and more efficient channels that will provide cabinets to consumers.


What dealers are at risk?

Most people would think it’s the smaller dealer but that’s not necessarily true.

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow” Rupert Murdoch

  • Lots of fixed overhead. Big showrooms, and/or warehouses that make it hard to compete.A manufacturer told me recently that one of his customers were opening a 15K sq. ft showroom?? All I can say is good luck and take a close look at the model.
  • Lack of technology is a real problem. Too many K & B dealers are working with old, non-integrated or little at all technology. Do excel spreadsheets and paper job folders come to mind? What about your scheduling board and the abundance of markers and erasers you use to keep it current?
  • Limited resources and expertise. Many owners have the approach that they will figure out the answers and can roll with that. Damn…look outside for help. There is a reason that I read like a madman and watch Ted Talks on a regular basis. Yep…I better learn from others or I am a goner.
  • Lack of talent. We do talent acquisition, so I see it every day. Why can’t I find good people? It’s not because they aren’t out there but it’s because you don’t offer a better solution for them to work within. This would include an incredible culture that has systems in place, a structured training program, a positive and energized environment, and a focus on embracing change within the organization. Lastly and most importantly, the “why” you are in business and the vision you have for the future.

Most people might look at this blog and be fearful of how the future is going to treat their business but I hope it helps you to take a step back, get some help from your team or a mentor and come up with a plan on how you will adapt to this new reality and start putting it into motion. Like yesterday! Thanks for reading this. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Next week’s blog will discuss how this Kitchen and Bath consolidation will affect cabinet manufacturers.

– Thad Whittenburg, President of Kitchen and Bath Global Partners and KABS –


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Mike Scardina
Mike Scardina

I wouldn’t necessarily consider that opening as being an alarmist, I think it is just fact. Our industry is changing very rapidly and it is only going to continue and probably accelerate. Although our progress in systems, technology, and improving customer experience has not progressed as rapidly as I would like, it has improved and info like this is actually motivational to continue and work harder towards this improvement. The future is bright, for those of us willing to change, to become more efficient, more customer focused, and willing to adapt. Thanks Thad for all your insight and your passion… Read more »

Thad Whittenburg
Thad Whittenburg

Thanks Mike!! I love to hear from people that get it and are wiling to open up to change so that their business can survive and thrive. Bottom line- The future of their success is there for the taking!!