A few weeks ago I was rushing through errands and knew my children were getting hungry, so I swung by a fast food place and ordered 3 kids’ meals. Last time I checked, they only cost $2.69, so imagine my surprise when the total came out to over $14! I asked the cashier to double check my order, which she did. No mistakes, she told me. As she very aptly put it, “Prices went up.”
As we all know, fake beef and processed chicken aren’t the only products affected by this unfortunate phenomenon. Those of us in the construction and remodeling market have witnessed a veritable tsunami of rising material prices. Overall this is bad news, with a few notable exceptions worth mentioning. On today’s menu: cabinets.
Once upon a time (prior to the economic downturn) the most affordable way to replace your kitchen cabinets was with a stock brand, such as the type carried by major home improvement stores. Because of the high demand for new kitchens and the heavy selling power of those outlets, manufacturers could produce pre-designed “box” cabinets in massive quantities, which helped keep production costs (and consumer prices) down, and allowed for quick delivery.
Custom cabinets, on the other hand, were often considered a luxury item. (We do tend to see $$$ signs as soon as we hear the word “custom,” don’t we?) Combine cost difference—or perceived cost difference—with the longer lead time due to customization, and the options didn’t look very comparable.
But nowadays things have changed. Over the last few years, a dramatic decrease in demand has left large-scale stock cabinet manufacturers scrambling to unload pre-built cabinets and cover the high overhead expenses of mass production. Inevitably, “prices went up.”
Custom cabinetry pricing, on the other hand, has remained relatively steady. Most cabinet makers are small businesses, and they only build what has been ordered, which keeps overhead low. Price-wise the stock vs. custom comparison is far more competitive than it once was. However, as the price gap has narrowed, many custom cabinet makers have had to extend their lead times to accommodate increased business.
What does this mean? Let me put it this way. If you’re in the mood for beef, you have options:
- You can stop by a fast food joint and order a burger. It’ll cost you more than it used to, and it might not be the most nutritious, organic meal, but if you’re hungry it’ll get the job done, and you can have it right away.
- You can go to your favorite steak house and order the same thing: a burger. It will probably cost a little more than the fast food rendition, but it’s real beef and comes with all the fixings, providing a far more satisfying culinary experience. (You will, however, need to wait a bit longer while it’s cooked to order.)
- If you’re a vegetarian, I apologize for the metaphor. Let’s just say if you want salad, you can buy it bagged, or have it made fresh from the garden.
And that, my friends, is food for thought.