Niches within niches: The future of cabinetry
A common topic people like to talk about is the future of cabinetry.
It is easy to look at the future of other industries and see their movement into the future; for example the automobile industry. Nowadays we have vehicles with self-driving and autopilot “finch” features and electric vehicles. You see it’s an industry that’s been entrenched in tradition for over a hundred years and now the industry is getting a facelift, an overhaul.
So when we apply that same thinking to the cabinetry world it's almost like uncharted territory, a new frontier. I believe the future of the cabinet business is just that. We are in a time where technology is opening the minds of creative people in the industry and we are starting to see the advent of things like Lockdowel technology for assembling cabinets which replaces the traditional dowel and confirmat methods. And then you're seeing things like Allmoxy with online ordering platforms that make the ordering of specialty products like cabinet doors or cabinet components easier, more efficient, and more intuitive for the customer using them. That’s what I think the future of our industry is, making products easier to access for customers.
It allows the business owner to further niche down within their niche, to get more specialized within their niche. I really believe that if you look at the history of how industrialism has evolved, it has always evolved to companies getting more specialized into fewer and fewer things. The industry as the whole still has a lot of “do-it-yourself” type of things happening, where shops are doing the customer service, the sales, the manufacturing, the finishing, and the installation all in-house. As a whole, other industries are very specialized and very niched.
When I ask the question on my podcast, if often comes down to three questions:
  • Do we think it will become more high-tech?
  • Do we think it will be more low-tech?
  • Or will it be business as usual?
For me, I think it's going to be a combination of things getting higher tech, more intuitive, alongside machinery that's easier to run. But ultimately it’s going to be reducing the supply chain down to fit your niche.
So when talking about reducing the supply chain, rather than needing to call four or five or six different vendors to get the products to finish your cabinets, you instead may just call a component manufacture to get your cabinet components and a hardware distributor to get all your hardware and that’s it. Rather than having to go to several different places just going to two. You’re cutting out several vendors and cutting down a lot of your manufacturing needs.
How to look at the future of cabinetry
1. Smarter use of capital
So if we only have x number of dollars to spend on our business as working capital we need to be very careful as to how we spend those dollars. Looking at your business, look at how many dollars you have to spend and where you want to spend them. Do you want to spend them on upping your manufacturing capacity, employees, or space? What do you need to gain capacity and produce more product? Would your capital would be most effective going into producing more sales and gaining capacity by outsourcing your products?
2. Carving out your own niche
How can you get a niche inside of a niche?  Look at what you as a company are really good at. Are you good at sales, design, customer service, install, or assembly? Think about on what you are best at and explore what it can look like to focus more and more intensely on that over time.
3. Growth doesn't always mean top line growth
I’m a firm believer that if you’re not growin’ you’re dying but that doesn’t always mean top line growth is the way to grow. Growing may be looking at everything that you can possibly gain at your current sales volume to amplify your profits at the end of the day. Or maybe it’s growing your top line through alternative revenue sources like outsourcing your parts or focusing on higher margin work.
Action steps: Planning your future in the cabinet industry
Map your business on paper with specific goals like earnings, how many employees, defining your niche, how much money you will make at the end of the day. Make this map to represent what you WANT not what you are not. Make very specific goals like top line revenue, bottom line net profit, etc.
How can you achieve these goals with the smallest expense and least amount of time possible? How can I get there the quickest with the smallest amount out of pocket? As all business owners know: cash is king.
Pick one goal from your list and attack it. So if your specific goal is to get to a pick one thing that will get you there the quickest, choosing certain types of projects, a certain employee, outsourcing - whatever that one thing is, focus on it until you hit it and then move onto the next thing on your list that will get you closer to your ideal.
While the future of cabinetry is unknown we can at least look at the current trends to see where it's going. If you do, I believe you’ll agree with me that the future of cabinetry looks like more specialized businesses in our specific fields.

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About the author
Jeff Finney

Jeff Finney is the founder of Ultimate Cabinet Components, based in Collinsville, Oklahoma; 918-371-7171. For more shop insights from Jeff, check out his articles at or listen to his podcasts at Jeff is also a 2018 Wood Industry 40 Under 40 honoree.