KBIS 2012: Five Trends Changing the Face of Our Industry

What to look for at this year’s show
By Mandy Meszaros
February 21, 2012

The New Year marks a fresh start for the industry—a time when planning takes shape, personal and professional resolutions abound and forecasts are filled with equal parts optimism and uncertainty. As we continue to see improvement in housing starts and remodeling, now is as good a time as any to think ahead…and quickly. Important changes are taking place in the industry as a new mix of consumer segments is colliding, gradually gaining confidence and beginning to spend a little more of its disposable income. And those with insight into the shifting marketplace will have a firmer grasp on the future and success in 2012.

The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), which takes place at Chicago’s McCormick Place from April 24 to 26, remains an innovative resource for the industry to stay current, competitive and profitable. As a sneak preview of the show, following are five trends that are changing the kitchen and bath industry and are sure to headline this year’s outing.


For the first time ever, four separate generations—Gen Now (ages 15-34), Generation X (ages 35-44), Zoomers (ages 45-65) and Prime Timers (ages 66-plus)—are in the workforce, interacting, influencing and coexisting closely with one another. While each has its own set of needs, together they are reinventing the rules of what a kitchen and bath should be, whether it cater to youthful technology savvy, a passion for entertaining, the quest for wellness or the desire to age comfortably in place (for more on the generations, read Consumer. It is critical for industry professionals to fully understand how the generations impact each other and the marketplace in order to build a profitable business with staying power.

With this in mind, this year KBIS will unveil Uncontained, an interactive look at generational self-expression and lifestyles that promises to inspire a new way of thinking, prompt lively discussion and captivate the senses. Anchoring the center of the show, it will comprise multiple 20-ft.-long shipping containers, each functioning as a kind of oversized diorama designed to showcase different generational attitudes about life and home and ultimately show attendees how these differences may impact their business. For instance, imagine a container dedicated to Gen X, many of whom are new parents, cherish work/life balance and are smart shoppers. Translate these characteristics into a visual display and what would it look like? Or how about one addressing the concerns of multigenerational households, a common situation among working Baby Boomers who have grown children as well as elderly parents living with them?

“A designer, dealer, remodeler or architect may have very different reasons to be part of the KBIS community,” said Jim Scott, managing director of KBIS. “The focus of Uncontained and the entire show is to help all attendees better understand each generation and lifestyle segment and gain insight into their wants and needs. The 2012 edition promises to deliver to each attendee an experience that provides clear value and challenges them to think in new, exciting and profitable ways.”


Once a buzz term, “green” has become engrained in the kitchen and bath industry. What began as an appeal for eco-friendly products and materials in the home has now transformed into holistically sustainable spaces that encourage healthy living behaviors by those inhabiting them. Designers, architects and manufacturers alike are rethinking the word “green” to encompass a complete lifestyle, and as a result, its definition has expanded to include descriptors such as “authentic,” “American made,” “character,” “local” and “organic.” The Uncontained interactive exhibit will also address this trend with a showcase that utilizes reclaimed materials in fresh ways, resurrects classic products, demonstrates ways to exemplify sustainable and innovative thinking and motivates attendees and exhibitors to reclaim, renew, repair, recreate, repurpose, rethink and react.


Continual reinvention is essential for keeping any brand fresh and exciting. The need to be inspiring and innovative goes hand in hand with the need to think of customers’ desires and wants before they even realize them. Whether starting every morning by checking what thought-leaders in all industries are buzzing about or simply taking 30 minutes each day to brainstorm new business ideas, industry professionals, from dealers and designers to architects and manufacturers, are constantly on the prowl for new ways to stay ahead of the curve and succeed. KBIS recognizes this and will present an expansive offering of new exhibitors and thought-provoking speakers, including keynote Candice Olson, of HGTV; Nina Brakel, of branding consultancy Simple Truth; and Sphere Trending’s Susan Yashinsky, as well as Eric Corey Freed, of organicArchitect, who will present on green kitchen and bath design. Add to that a dynamic networking and seminar program, as well as stimulating uses of interactive technology, and the 2012 show aims to help attendees walk away energized and enthused.

This year will also see the introduction of features designed to enable show-goers to use their time more efficiently. High-interest product categories will now be grouped into special pavilions to help attendees focus on the products and suppliers they need to see quickly and efficiently. These pavilions include appliance, cabinetry, decorative hardware, international, natural stone and tile and sourcing.


Today’s consumers crave cutting-edge uses of technology. According to Sphere Trending, 60 percent of consumers desired a new tablet or smart phone this past Christmas. And just as sustainability has transcended mere product specification to include and enrich entire lifestyles, technology has influenced not only the design of products but entire spaces. Kitchens now incorporate nooks for laptops, gadget-charging stations and, more recently, appliances that interface with smart phones and TVs. Understanding the latest technological developments, some of which will grace the KBIS show floor, and how to fully incorporate them into business and design work is critical for the kitchen and bath professional.
Uncontained (top) will address lifestyle trends with displays in shipping containers. (Sketch by Visbeen Associates and Jeffrey Roberts Design, 2012) Products, such as Wolf’s next-generation E Series wall oven (above), which won an award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, will offer KBIS attendees insight into the powerful role connectivity will play in the home.

No less important is immersion in the rapidly evolving world of social media, which offers participants unprecedented opportunities to listen, learn and communicate with influencers from all walks of life and all over the world. And it’s not just for consumers. According to Hubspot, companies that blog generate 67 percent more leads per month than those that do not. Social media also drives higher consideration and action rates. Be it through positive reviews, real-time conversation or retweets of information, your audience will value the ability to connect and interact with you on their terms. With the power to help make an array of connections, broadcast your message and continue to engage and build loyalty in the future, social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr and the rapidly popular Pinterest, are critical.

KBIS will utilize its Facebook and Twitter feeds onsite to entertain, update attendees and provide exhibitors with an additional platform for sharing up-to-the-moment information with the entire show audience. Feeds and updates will be streamed on interactive digital touchscreens displayed throughout the show floor. KBIS will also offer a new mobile app to enhance show-goers’ experience by assisting with scheduling, sharing exhibitor information, providing an interactive show floor map, offering exclusive discounts and providing the ability to connect with the show’s social media outlets. A panel of the industry’s brightest bloggers will be onsite to provide a fresh perspective of insider insights and tips.


Even with the wealth of digital and online communication at our fingertips, the value of face-to-face networking and close customer connections never dies. At KBIS, not only will kitchen and bath professionals have the opportunity to make meaningful, lasting connections with industry buyers and influencers, sponsored lounges throughout the show floor, charitable opportunities and educational sessions tailored to specific groups of attendees and exhibitors offer additional valuable networking moments. “KBIS 2012 will provide its exhibitor partners and attendees with new, highly targeted avenues to leverage growth and increase return on investment, which is an invaluable opportunity in today’s economic state,” Scott said.

As the marketplace and trends continue to evolve, so will successful businesses. Understanding how to best harness the power of these trends can help make a profitable 2012. KBIS registration is now live. To register as an exhibitor or attendee, or to learn more about the innovations coming to this year’s show, visit www.kbis.com.

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