After cooking for two years, the UK kitchen market cooled through 2023 and that trend looks like continuing through 2024.

That’s the conclusion of the latest sector report from analyst JKMR.

Its Overview Report on the UK Fitted Kitchen Market shows the sector continuing to grow in 2022 after a buoyant 2021. With installations generally a long-term project, the Covid home improvement boom, triggered by consumers having more disposable income as they couldn’t spend on travel and leisure generally, fed through into 2022. The market was further underpinned by consumers spending more time in their homes and, importantly, working from home to the extent the trend has even become an acronym – WFH. They therefore had still greater incentive to invest in their property, with the kitchen, billed as the ‘heart of the home’, being a major focus for spending.

The market was also boosted by increased housing transactions. After jumping in 2021 due to deferred house moves from the pandemic period, they fell back in 2022, but still remained above 2019/20 levels.

Consequently, reports JKMR, UK kitchen sales hit an all-time high of 1.277 million in 2022. That was up around 3% from 2021’s 1.24 million, and 44,000 ahead of the previous record in 2018. Individual kitchen spend was up too.

Rustic look from Papilio

“The total family dwelling fitted kitchen products market specifically, excluding nonfamily dwelling kitchens, free-standing major domestic appliances, and the facelift sector, but including ‘add on’ cabinetry/tops and in situ worktop/sink/integrated MDA replacement/augmentation, saw sales of £5.83bn. That was rise of 9% on 2021,” states JKMR.

In terms of 2022 market share, independents, which in JKMR’s definition, include ‘bricks and mortar studios’, Porcelanosa and John Lewis, accounted for the largest chunk of the market at 33.8%. Their share slipped, however, thought due in part to Wren “winning over more aspirational consumers”.

Consumer multiples, including Wickes and Homebase, Magnet non-Trade, B&Q, Wren, and Ikea, gained share to 21.05%, and trade multiples, including Howdens, Magnet Trade and Benchmarx stayed on around 28% of the market. E-retail and direct contract saw their share dip slightly to 7.85% and 8.8% respectively.

Papilio lets the grain shine

In terms of kitchens delivered, Howdens was up 4.4% in 2022 at 522,000, Magnet 4.1% at 57,250, B&Q 1.7% at 117,000, Wickes 6.1% at 39,500 and Homebase saw no change at 23,000. Specialist studio volume sales dipped 0.3% to 150,500, multiple merchants grew 16.7% to 35,000, while direct contract was down 3.6%.

Wren delivered 10.9% kitchens more at 132,000, Ikea 9% fewer at 45,500, and other national retailers and other retail increased volume by 14.3% and 10.7% to 8,000 and 15,500 respectively (all figures JKMR).

Wren Japandi style kitchen

But, while we’re still awaiting final number crunching, preliminary analysis points to all change in 2023.

 “Rising mortgage costs, allied to overall cost of living pressures, have decreased consumers’ ability to invest in discretionary ‘big ticket’ purchasing,” says JKMR. “At the same time, house price stagnation, and ongoing fear of more substantial deflation, has led others to question the value of investing in their property, or delay plans for house moves.”

A fall in new build completions in 2023 sucked more energy from the market. As a result, JKMR predicts a “substantial fall in the number of kitchen installations during 2023, with a currently projected decline of 10.25% on 2022 levels, putting installations back below 1.15 million, just above 2015 levels”.

On a brighter note, sales value for 2023 was expected to remain stable.

“While this partly reflects material and manufacturers sales price rises being passed on, it remains the case that a useful proportion of kitchen buyers are still shifting specification upward, even if this means utilising consumer credit,” says JKMR. “However, it should also be kept in mind that for householders replacing a kitchen that is 10-12 years old, it is now possible to purchase products that upgrade the existing kitchen (for example, induction hobs, non-laminate worktops, cabinetry with complex internal storage systems) within a low-to-lower-mid (albeit not most basic) budget.”

Less heartening is JKMR’s prediction that the downward volume trend in the market will persist through this year, albeit that sales value will continue to be underpinned by that “useful proportion” of buyers trading up.

On-going concerns as to household finances, property prices, and mortgage repayment rises [shaping] consumer attitudes to undertaking major elective household refurbishment are expected to impact activity in the key 2024 winter sale period, it says.

“Indications are that new build completions will also fail to see any significant boom over the year,” states JKMR. “Consequently, at present 2024 installations are projected to fall further, dropping 4.8% to take the market back below 1.1 million installations.”

Once more, however, market value is expected to prove more resilient.

“Where kitchens are being purchased there are sufficient numbers of clients looking for higher specified products in the upper ends of the market and wishing to upgrade on an existing kitchen in the midmarket, to drive up average project value,” says JKMR.

A projected gradual improvement in property transactions in 2024 is expected to lead to kitchen installations returning to growth in 2025, but with continuing high mortgage payments, JKMR expects improvement to be slight.

A positive the timber sector can take from the company’s report is its contention that sustainability looks set to become an evergreater influence on consumer kitchen choice.

“Eco/sustainable product specification may become a more fundamental expectation in buying, whether driven by legislation or client desire,” states JKMR.

It also maintains that cradle-to-grave carbon impact will become of increasing concern to buyers, albeit highlighting that this could lead to use of new kitchen materials created from recycled and waste products.

“It may [also] become incumbent upon kitchen suppliers to provide a means for the client to upcycle their pre-existing kitchen, or, at least, to provide guidance or assistance on how to dispose of it more sustainably,” says JKMR.

The market is also expected to turn increasingly to biophilic, nature-influenced design and specification.

 “More widely the market will need to ensure that it embraces the wider concept of holistic design, although many in the industry may well argue that this is simply a re-naming of already existing concepts of ‘good’ design,” states JKMR. “Within this the concept of the Well Building Standard may become more important, particularly in new build. This is explained as: ‘Transforming the indoor environment by placing health and wellness at the centre of design and construction decisions, offering innovative solutions for the built environment’.” ­


The big homestyle magazines certainly see a key place for timber in 2024 kitchen design trends

Bare wood cupboards are in for 2024, inspired by Scandi design according to Ideal Home.

Plywood remains popular, says House Beautiful

It quotes Al Bruce of makers Olive & Barr.

“The wood kitchen trend has made a significant comeback in recent years,” he says. “We have moved on from outdated and clunky wood kitchens to seamless elegant designs, which celebrate the beauty and versatility of wood. With a nod to the Nordic style, we have noticed a demand from homeowners looking to invest in an authentic look which celebrates natural materials in abundance, moving away from the stark white design from previous years. Wood kitchens create a warm, inviting atmosphere, the natural grain and textures add depth and character to the home and provide the perfect backdrop for an abundance of natural textures, from quartz worktops to sandstone floors and more.”

House Beautiful predicts the continued popularity of plywood.

“It’s an affordable alternative to solid wood and perfect for achieving the Scandi minimalist style,” it says. “The grain of wood is still visible, creating an interesting visual effect at a low price point.”

It also tells readers to “get ahead of the curve and introduce ridged wooden cabinetry into their kitchen”. Predicted to boom in 2024, slatted and ribbed wood is a way to make the space feel “refined and chic”.

It predicts increasing appreciation of wabi-sabi too, a style approach celebrating the “imperfect beauty of organic materials”.

“In 2024, expect to see kitchens that layer up coarse materials like stone, wood and brick,” says the magazine.

Homebuilding also sees a timber kitchen upturn.

“Wood kitchen ideas enjoyed a surge in popularity a couple of years ago then got overtaken a bit by painted kitchens. Now they are back once more. Our desire for a stripped back look is seemingly insuppressible,” it says.

It quotes Molly Chandler, designer at furniture maker Willis & Stone.

“The colours and textures of nature are likely to continue to play a big role in kitchen design for 2024,” she says. “From oak islands and flooring to textured natural rattan furniture… a return to wood finishes brings a warmth to the kitchen, making it appear much more like a homely living space, rather than a room based purely on the function of food preparation.”