Historically the American cabinet industry has been slow on the uptake of innovation and forward thinking.

Compared to the lighting and plumbing industry cabinet makers and manufacturers have been reluctant to break new ground. Most follow the leader… the only problem is the leaders are moving pretty slowly… perhaps not even really leading.

Now is the time to inspire the American consumer. It is the responsibility of people in our industry from top to bottom to start putting new product in front of the end user.

Compared to foreign markets the American market offers a relatively narrow range of products. Plain and simple, foreign markets have a much more sophisticated range of product available.

In fact, most innovation in the cabinet industry comes from abroad. Whose fault is this? Not the consumer.

All culpability lies squarely on the shoulders of the people whose responsibility it is to support the market: manufacturers, suppliers, and designers. I’ve seen firsthand on a regular basis. . . suppliers unable to deliver; manufacturers lacking willingness to try new things; designers imposing their limiting ideas on clients.

While it's often said, “We give the consumer what they ask for,” the difficulty is the consumer can’t ask for things that they don’t know exist or haven’t been presented.

The American Cabinet industry can start to thrive once again by stepping out of its comfort zone and taking some risks. We are all aware that the housing bust affected our market, causing large manufacturers to restructure and smaller shops to fold. 

But even in a struggling economy, cabinets are still being sold. The economy is no longer a viable excuse. There persists a market demanding development. The consumers’ requirements for styling and design of cabinetry has fractured and the “one size fits all” doesn’t really work anymore.

In order to fulfill these expectations we all need to look deep inside and see how we have or haven’t helped to evolve the industry. It’s time for a little experimentation. It’s time for the courageous to lead the way. May the best man… or factory win!

Bruce Church is a Design Innovation Consultant specializing in Kitchen & Bath Home Furnishings. With over 27 years of experience spanning custom furniture and cabinetry, lighting, plumbing, kitchen & bath design, furniture construction, manufacturing planning, and kitchen and bath sales, Bruce has acquired a unique combination of design, manufacturing and business skills. Reach him at:[email protected]

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.