After 18-months of a global pandemic that saw us not only eat in our kitchens but also work and educate our children there, the kitchen has taken on new meaning for all of us … and expectations of what it should deliver are high. Today, the kitchen worksurface plays a central role, both in the day-to-day experience, as well as in the design of the space.
Given the importance placed on the kitchen worktop, lack of clarity on the specification of materials is an ongoing concern. Transparency of performance for materials, fixtures and fittings – including surfaces and worktops – is a fundamental requirement. In some instances, consumers can end up with a faulty or problematic work surface which is not fit for purpose, simply because someone didn’t really understand the material differences in the first place.
Despite this when it comes to stone, quartz, ceramics and the like, there is still a lack of knowledge about prices, technical specifications and, in some instances, even what type of product is being installed, and yet the worktop can be the make-or-break factor in someone’s dream kitchen.
Why is this? The worktop typically comes last in the installation process, which means it’s often the last thing to be thought about. Given its visual impact, it really should be pushed up the agenda and selected at the same time as the cabinet colour, right at the start of the design process.
There is also a mass of information – right and wrong – for consumers (and those in the trade) to find, decipher, and try to understand. It’s information and misinformation overload, which can easily lead to consumer inaction; they can’t make sense of the market and the options available to them, so they don’t purchase or avoid the stonemason and stick to something simple that they know; wood or laminate.
As an industry, we need to get better at managing consumers’ expectations on how to buy, what to expect, how materials perform and even what they should be paying. There is an alarming race to the bottom in some areas right now, driven by material of vague provenance and firms undercutting others on fabrication. At some point, quality suffers. Many of those playing this game are now finding it harder as international shipping rates have spiralled up. Unfortunately, for many consumers, an unrealistic cost benchmark has already been set.
With all these elements to keep in mind, it is understandable that those outside of the tile and stone industry struggle to differentiate between the various surface types. We understand the complexity of the tile and stone market and continually strive to remove the headaches of pricing and specification, ordering and delivery, installation, and aftercare.
Quartz and porcelain worksurfaces grace the pages of glossy interior magazines and social media accounts, and it is evident that consumers are seeking them out.
We humbly suggest that industry professionals try to reassure consumers and create a trusting relationship. This is essential if we want to ensure consumers don’t feel overwhelmed or are misled into purchasing a low-quality worktop; they must feel assured in the fact that high quality work surfaces are worth the investment.
We are on a mission to help the market understand the benefits and properties of high-quality surface materials, not just of our products, but for the industry as a whole.
This can be through clear information and consultancy as well as striving to provide the best quality and service. It is essential that those within the industry take a little time to consider the not so humble worktop, have a keen eye on the future of the industry and their own business and, most importantly, make it less of a minefield for the consumer
Jonathan Stanley is VP Marketing for Caesarstone UK & EMEA.
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