When it comes to kitchen or bathroom projects, I think the question I get asked more than any other is ‘where should I go for my new kitchen or bathroom?’ My usual answer is to suggest that the first move should be to see what the local independent kitchen or bathroom specialist has to offer because, in my experience, these provide consumers with both the widest choice and unrivalled value-for-money.
The usual follow-up question is a little more difficult: ‘how do I find a good specialist?’ There is no easy answer to this one but personal recommendation is always a good bet. However if you have been researching the kitchen or bathroom market, you will probably have come across one of the trade associations with links to this sector and it would be natural to think that they may have something to offer you and your fellow consumers. And in a way, they do…
Take the British Kitchen Designers Association (BKDA) for example. It is primarily focused on fostering a professional ethos among its members and sharing knowledge and experience with young designers. Surely any association that promotes a professional ethos in such a crucial area as kitchen design must bring real benefits to the consumers too?
The Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA), as its name suggests, represents the companies that make the products for bathrooms. The BMA acts as an information highway between industry, government and the consumer on issues that affect the bathroom business. Its breaking work in support of a universal water labelling scheme that encourages water conservation has a real cash-in-the-pocket advantage for anybody paying bills for water or energy.
A new kitchen or bathroom sinks or swims on how well it is installed, so the Institute of Kitchen Bedroom and Bathroom Installers (iKBBI) aims of defining standards and supporting installation professionals should bring many benefits to consumers. And in addition to the proactive protection it offers via its criteria and ongoing monitoring of insurances, gas, electrical and asbestos awareness, the IKBBI also supports members and their customers via dispute resolution, although the majority of instances are dealt with remotely and via sound advice.
The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) was one of the first specialist trade associations for independent kitchen or bathroom retailers and it has an established track record of consumer-facing initiatives including its ConsumerCare Plus programme for protecting deposit payments, as well as a Workmanship Warranty. It also holds an annual design competition for its members to encourage good design practice. You can download your free KBSA Consumer Guide from the website.
The last few years has seen the kitchen emerge from its own room into the general living space of the home, and the ensuite bathroom is now a much more common feature of property. Today, several kitchen and bathroom designers also offer a full interior design service and a number of these specialists are members of The Society of British and International Design (SBID). Its objective is to promote the profession at the highest level of competence to provide consumer protection and, in doing so create a clear separation between professionals and hobbyists.
While the first duty of any trade association is to look after its members’ interests, all of the examples I have mentioned here also bring benefits to the kitchen or bathroom buying public too, even if the association does not have an obvious consumer-facing focus.