KBIS Show – A Trying Time For The Kitchen and Bath Industry

This past weekend I attended the National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Atlanta and was disappointed with the turnout.  Unless you live in a cave you are aware the economy has effected the construction trade quite significantly.  Last years event in Chicago drew upwards of 60,000 attendees.  This year they were hoping for 30,000.  Past shows were well attended by small remodeling and building firms as well as designers walking the convention center floors with their clients.  They were nonexistant this year.  It looked like there were more vendor personnel than attendees.  I was told that most of the vendors also cut back on their representatives.  On a positive note it was much easier for me to talk to the reps and hear about their new products than previous years.  In addition to a reduction in attendees there were signs of many large vendors that didn’t show.  As we walked the floor we noticed the absence of large companies like Wolf, Thermador, Viking, Miele, Gaggenau, Sub Zero, Whirlpool, numerous lighting companies and the standard sink, and faucet companies.  Grohe’s delivery trucks must  have gotten lost on the way to Atlanta because in their large space they had about six display kiosks with what looked like some faucets displays.   Grohe’s space was used as a relaxation station more than people looking at their products.   There was a large contingency of Chinese manufacturers displaying their, stone, hardware, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures and miscellaneous goods.  Their display booths looked as if they had the plague.  During our two days of walking around rarely did I see anyone examining their products.  All the problems that have surfaced in the past years apparently have made the public wary of their products.

On a brighter note there were a few new items that caught my interest.  My philosophy is, if I can leave the show learning about half a dozen new products that we can use in our work then the show was worth it.  What I was truly hoping for was a great show of new “Green” products for residential use.   GE made an attempt to show off two new water heaters.  The first was a new concept “Hybrid” heat pump design that is in the mock up stage.  The second was also in the design phase, a display of a new solar water heater and solar panel.   When speaking with the representative about the heaters features I recognized that the panel was unlike the ones we recently used on our projects.  I inquired if the large 4′ x 10′ roof panel had a small sub panel that would run the circulation pump in the event of power failure.  He stated “thats a good idea”.  I was surprised that the engineers at GE apparently haven’t done their home work as to what is on the market and is used today.  I wonder why their stock is down?  When I inquired about the cost I was surprised to find that the proposed cost is more than double of what we have installed.  I think GE needs to rethink their marketing strategy.  I was hoping for displays from companies that would show case home integration with new solar technology.  I guess I will have to wait to attend the builders shows.  One new product that caught our attention was a new bathroom exhaust fan by Panasonic called “Whisper Green”.  The features are great from an energy standpoint.  The fan has a variable speed control feature that runs continuously but can adjust from 0 to 110 CFM.  The fan can be switched and has a built in motion sensor that will turn the fan on when your in the bathroom.  The internal delay timer will return the fan to the pre-set CFM when the timer shuts off.  This product is great for south Florida.  The fan will extract all the heat and humidity  as well as turn itself off after you leave the bathroom.  The best part of the product was the almost non-existant sound generated from the fan.  Like most older homes in south Florida that lack an exhaust fan, this product is great for retrofitting into an existing bathroom.

I was pleasently surprised by the new refrigerators and wall ovens by Jenn-Air.  They are taking consumer demands to the next level.  Many new features and design elements should bring their products to the publics attention.  LG finally figured out how to cut down on the vibration from their washers and dryers.  There had been a lot of complaints of these units on a second floor application.  Their new piston technology will hopefully sell more units.  The Danze booth was extremely busy with everyone enjoying their plumbing lines.  Emtek had a wonderful display of new residential hardware.  We have used their product in the past and was happy to see some new sharp designs.  One set of handle designs were lit up with a red light.  I like the idea because it could be used in a childs bedroom as a psuedo night light.  I told the rep the product would be better with a white light.  We dont’ want the hallway of a house to look like a bordello.  All in all I was happy to attend.  I did find some new products to use for our clients but lets hope next year when the show will be in Chicago that we will have more attendees, more vendors and better product development to display.