The domestic kitchen furniture segment in the United Kingdom experienced steady growth in the early part of this decade. However, the overall market value declined in 2005 for the first time since 1999.
The market experienced steady growth between 2000 and 2003. Growth slowed a bit during 2003/4, following a series of interest rate increases, a less robust housing market and a high level of price competition. During 2005, new house building levels in the private sector remained relatively static, which, along with a downturn in UK consumer spending on RMI (repairs, maintenance and improvements), resulted in the weakest market for some years.
More recently, the poor performance of some companies, particularly those supplying and/or operating in the retail sector, such as MFI, has impacted on overall market performance, particularly given MFI’s significant market share.
The value growth of the kitchen furniture market is forecast to remain relatively low over the next two years as a result of the deferral of high ticket purchases by consumers, slow progress in the house building sector and the high level of price competition in the furniture sector.
Key issues influencing the UK domestic kitchen furniture market in recent years include:
* The blurring of distinction between the kitchen and living room, with less formality in the home and a move towards open plan living.
* An emphasis on aesthetics and stylish designs.
* The interest in cooking as a hobby and the demand for professional-look kitchens and appliances.
* The trend for sleek, minimalist contemporary designs.
* Trading up to higher value materials and products in the sink and worktop sectors.
Other trends include the cash-rich time-poor nature of many consumers, which has encouraged the rapid growth of kitchens purchased with the installation service included. The move away from DIY to GSI “Get Someone In” has also been fuelled by the demand for a high quality “professional” finish to the kitchen.
The kitchen furniture market comprises furniture, worktops and sinks, with furniture accounting for 75% of the market in value terms, while worktops accounted for 12% and sinks for 13%. Worktops and sinks have gradually gained share in recent years in line with the shift towards higher value products in these sectors.
The kitchen furniture market is at the mature stage of its product lifecycle. Consumer awareness is high and purchasing decisions tend to be based on design, colour and materials. Features such as soft-closing doors and drawers, sophisticated lighting and additional electrical appliances such as TVs and coffee machines are increasing in popularity. At the upper end of the market, handleless doors are offered by some manufacturers in line with sleek, minimalist styles. High gloss finishes, stainless steel, frosted glass, wood and metallic finishes are all popular, with combinations of materials frequently used to add interest.
Demand for design-oriented features in the kitchen has increased the importance of both worktops and sinks which can create high visual impact. High gloss laminates, solid surfaces and granite have all increased in popularity, although the affordability of laminates means that they are likely to continue to dominate the market in the foreseeable future.
The popularity of dishwashers has altered the use of a sink from an area simply for washing up to a multi-functional “work centre”, which incorporates features for washing, food preparation and drainage. Multi-functional sinks are widely available with a range of different features, such as strainer and draining bowls in varying depths, a variety of chopping boards, as well as associated products such as pull out spray rinse taps. In general, the focus on food preparation and overall design is driving the growth of the sinks market.
Technological developments in the tap sector such as pull-out spray taps and water filtration systems have also added value to the market, along with the growth of waste disposal units in the sink sector, in line with the increasing emphasis on waste separation and recycling.
The kitchen furniture market is currently dominated by MFI and Howden Joinery. MFI continue to lead the market despite the recent changes. Other key suppliers include Magnet, PJH, MKD, Symphony, Gower and Moores.
The distribution channel structure has experienced some changes, with lower growth in the furniture/discount warehouse sector due the restructuring at MFI and a slight shift towards the kitchen specialists during the last three years. In addition, the builders’ merchants have performed reasonably well in line with higher levels of new house building over the same period.
AKTRIN Furniture Information Center and AMA Research
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