Water treatment dealers that are looking to capitalize on market potential need to look no further than the kitchen and bath industry. For a variety of reasons, many homeowners and business owners are looking for ways to enhance the beauty of their kitchen and bath areas. Many people are looking to upgrade these spaces to match their own personal preferences and others are looking to make an investment to increase their property’s value. Either way, water treatment dealers have a unique opportunity to add sales with high-end faucets while selling their core competencies.
We reached out to a few experts that operate in the faucet product category for some insight into the trends and issues that are most impacting faucets today and what possibilities exist for water treatment dealers.
According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), 36 percent of empty nesters remodel their kitchens. And, 43 percent of families with teenagers remodel their kitchens. Furthermore, continues the association, many homeowners are remodeling to reduce electricity and water use.
Since water treatment equipment and particularly point-of-use (POU) filtration systems used in modern kitchens impact water and energy usage, as well as the appearance of the area, dealers are in an ideal position to educate and build business on these factors alone.
And, notes NKBA citing a Kitchen/Bath Industry Outlook report, the kitchen and bath industry accounts for nearly $200 billion in revenue. As a result, selling high-end faucets and other kitchen and bath upgrades can be great add-ons to your current business model, if done currently.
“The opportunities are great as mid- to high-end homeowners expect a high-end faucet on their sink. In most cases, it is the only part of the water treatment device that is exposed in a common area,” explains Edwin Roberts, CWS V, director of sales and marketing for QMP Inc.
Just as important as it is to know the target market and how to sell to these prospects is being aware of some of the pitfalls and proven successes of selling this equipment. That could mean making connections with interior designers who might be able to generate leads or be a partner with your company.
“Getting faucets into those high-end kitchen and bath showrooms [is important],” says Tomlinson Industries’ Director of Marketing Jeanne Engle. “While there may not be as many new builds, there is a lot of remodeling going on and if dealers can get into those showrooms, where interior designers as well as homeowners are coming in to look at products, I think that is where [the dealer has] the best potential to sell these high-end faucets.”
Customers looking to make an investment to renovate a kitchen or bath area the right way are usually not overly concerned about paying more for quality products. After all, upgrading these areas typically involves a hefty price tag as is, so “sticker shock” should be all but eliminated by the time the faucet decision is even broached.
Additionally, customers who are not in the market to remodel these areas will view the cost of a higher end faucet as minimal compared to the impact it can have. “It is an easy way to get a new look in the kitchen that does not require a major overhaul or the extra space,” notes Engle.
Selling products that are manufactured using quality materials and following U.S. standards for flow rates and manufacturing processes is a practice that should not waver. These products are ensured to save the customer money and water use, which are two critical needs mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, quality products that meet U.S. standards will keep your customers safe. In January, for instance, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (Senate Bill S.3874) adjusted to set a new federal standard for the level of permissible lead in plumbing fixtures that are used to transport water for human consumption. The Act changes the previously-allowable level of up to eight percent to an average content of less than 0.25 percent.
And, how can dealers and customers judge quality? According to Engle, the proof is in the plastic.
“One way to judge quality is to look at the materials that are used in the construction of the faucet,” says Engle. “The lesser quality faucets seem to incorporate more plastic.”
The message is dealers and customers need to do their homework to make sure they are getting a quality product. Often, when buyers turn to the Internet or even a big-box retailer, products might not always be what they appear to be.
“The faucet could be [constructed using] chrome-plated plastic. And, unfortunately, a lot of times when the homeowner or the business owner is ordering online and they see the image of the faucet … chrome-plated plastic looks pretty good these days and it is very hard to determine whether or not it is made of plastic,” adds Engle.
When quality does mean quantity
In addition to examining a faucet’s specifications, dealers should then use commonsense methods and turn their attention to the manufacturer. Certain variables can determine the level of quality and customer support you can expect from a faucet manufacturer. Reputation, confidence in their own product and responsiveness can all be deciding factors when looking to partner with a manufacturer of high-end faucets.
“Reputation and length of time the manufacturer has been serving the marketplace” is vital information to obtain before stocking and recommending any manufacturer’s product, according to Roberts.
“The responsibility starts with the water treatment dealer who has exposure to that information,” Roberts adds. “Homeowners rely on the dealers’ reputation and expertise as their point of knowledge.”
The warranty of the product will also tell you a sufficient amount of information about the manufacturer’s expectations and trust in the faucet’s makeup. Selling customers a product that is expected to last two years to a lifetime is more appealing than 90 days.
Use increased interest as an opportunity to grow business
As mentioned earlier, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act has drawn increased attention to the new level of permissible lead in plumbing fixtures that are used to transport water for human consumption, which includes faucets. While many quality manufacturers were ahead of the curve — which could also be a telling variable about the manufacturer — homeowners and business owners are likely catching up at a slower pace.
Besides a few states, including California, Vermont and Maryland, which have had tighter limits on lead for a few years now, many residents in the U.S. still have older fixtures that do not meet current standards for lead or flow rates. So, in addition to the remodeling opportunities discussed, residents with older faucets are also a key target market to capitalize on this business.
One final key market segment to approach if you are new to offering high-end faucets is your current customer base. Many under-sink filtration units, such as reverse osmosis systems, come standard with a generic gooseneck design. Today’s high-end faucets can easily replace these plain faucets and elevate the appearance of the sink.
Other notable faucet trends cited by the experts we contacted for this article include hands-free capabilities and the availability of more colors, designs and choices than ever before. Dealers can lead with their understanding and knowledge of water quality, delivery and manufacturing. In addition to attending this month’s WQA Aquatech USA trade show, consider attending kitchen and bath events for networking and educational purposes on selling high-end faucets to this industry and target audience.