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CKCA by Sandra Wood
CMP, Executive Director, CKCA
As we find ourselves at the end of 2021, one could probably say something like “what on earth was that?” Yes, it has indeed been a year I think most of us are glad to see the end given the challenges we felt throughout the year.
From our 2021 surveys, members told us the supply chain issue was a top of mind challenge and likely for many, their biggest pain point. I think it’s fair to say this issue trumped everything else, although the skilled labour shortage is a close second. Even members invested in advanced manufacturing are feeling the pinch of the labour shortage. We’ve seen members push out notifications to their clients to temper expectations on kitchen lead times that were anywhere from six weeks to more than 18 weeks. CKCA even pushed out a press 
release to help support our members with transparency on the issue. As CKCA’s President, Heidi Boudreault said: “In my 30-plus years in this industry I have never seen these kinds of challenges.”

The paradox
Without question the challenges facing our industry have pushed everyone. Closing your doors for good was an option, but projects kept coming and some members had to turn work away when their order books were full. That’s been the paradox through all of this, in spite of the challenges – there was no shortage of work.
Planning into 2022 is happening, but remains somewhat difficult because we still face a lot of unknowns. Our industry is adapting to this different normal and there are so many examples of companies who journeyed on, facing the challenges as they come and continuing to grow and evolve.

Resilience and ingenuity
We’ve seen companies expand manufacturing space and capacity, such as Paradise Cabinets and Sunrise Kitchens. We’ve got members who are working hard on implementing Kaizen principles of lean manufacturing, such as Mid Island Cabinets and Nickels Cabinets. We’ve seen companies not panic, but take a proactive approach to supply shortages while keeping staff focused and clients happy, leveraging deeply entrenched business values, companies such as Woodland Horizon and Netley Millwork.
We’ve seen companies acquire new equipment to build more opportunity and improve efficiencies, such as Muskoka Cabinets and Lev2 Millwork and we’ve seen innovative marketing to attract new employees from companies such as Ritchie Custom Millwork and Gipman Millwork.  We’ve seen companies working hard and showing gratitude to their employees who worked a weekend shift to get a project finished, well done to the employees of EuroRite Cabinets. We’ve seen Chervin Kitchens place a spotlight on their employees through social media, recognizing and thanking different staff for their contributions to the success of the company. We’ve seen companies celebrate significant milestones such as Merit Kitchens 50 years and PM Fine Cabinetry celebrating 10! We’ve seen lots of innovation in design and storage by companies such as Arbutus Furniture & Closets and Cabinet Effects. We’re thankful to companies such as Cutler Kitchens and DM Bath for promoting ‘buy Canadian’ on their social media channels and we congratulate companies like Rosehill Woodcrafters who increased online leads 300 per cent. We’re proud of MCK Kitchens who achieved CKCA certification for quality assurance and we’ve welcomed more than 30 new members to the CKCA community, because collectively there is resilience and ingenuity.

Expect the unexpected
In hindsight, 2021 has been an amazing year and while not without challenges, there is a lot to celebrate. We expect 2022 to continue the same way. While the supply chain and pricing issues are still a point of frustration, we know things will settle down and we’ve seen efforts by government to address the bottlenecks in seaports like Vancouver and Los Angeles. Our industry continues to adapt to longer timelines and while it’s still not easy, we now know to expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. The labour issue is definitively the biggest, long-term threat to our industry, but CKCA is working and collaborating even more with other organizations to work on this issue to create improvements and we are seeing government slowly taking essential steps to encourage greater uptake into the trades. Through our surveys members have told us they have booked business right through until next March and 50 percent of respondents in our August survey said they would increase sales/production levels for 2022.
Future business opportunities will come in many forms. Most of us know it’s not wise to assume the work will come and therefore we encourage you to plug in, watch the trends and go after the business that is trending. For example, we have an aging population that is living longer and wants to ‘age in place’ rather than going into senior residences. This boomer population will be looking to renovate their homes. We are just at the very beginning of this trend with other factors including multi-generational living and micro living all driving more business opportunities. Government is looking at ways to increase immigration to build Canada’s population because we need more people to work. This will drive an increase in housing, especially in urban centres.  An increased focus on our environment translates to more localized travel that will create future building opportunities and the fact that buying Canadian built kitchen cabinets is in itself an environmental benefit over buying foreign imports shipped across the globe, should drive more business for our industry. We encourage everyone in our industry to include this messaging in their marketing.  Just go to our website and check out our “Why Buy Canadian” page.
It’s been a tough year, but staying the course offers so much opportunity. CKCA will continue to monitor trends and share insights to help our industry and if you’re not a member - join us and plug in to all the insights we can offer.
CKCA is planning face-to-face events in 2022 and we’ve adapted too. Check out the events section of our website and members can view our On-Demand library of webinars we’ve hosted throughout the year. In 2022 we know that for CKCA and the industry, the show will go on.
Wishing everyone the very best in 2022.

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