Chill out

In Features On

Innovative technology and cool design are the perfect tools to tempt consumers to trade up, says Hayley Gilbert.

Today’s market is looking for refrigeration that offers maximum value for money – a good quality product with a combination of features. They are also demanding reliability, durability and affordability so manufacturers have stepped up to the mark with a raft of new appliances to suit all needs and budgets.

Market trends

“2010 marked a significant turnaround for the cooling sector, which has been in decline since 2006. In the period March 2010 – February 2011, the sector grew by 6.9% to just over £682m, adding £44.2m to its value,” comments Aisha Roberts, GfK account executive.

“Sales of freestanding fridges accounted for 88% of all products sold. Traditional combi fridge-freezers, which represent 55% of the market proved popular with strong growth in volume and value of 9.7% and 8.7% respectively. Although robust growth was recorded over the annual period, most of the improvement was concentrated in the last six months. Growth was influenced by the January promotions and also strong sales in Q4 2010 when consumers brought forward their purchases to beat the VAT increase. With this in mind, sales in the coming months will start to decline especially as government cuts starts to kick in.”

Overall, the freezer market saw a 3% increase in volume and 4.9% rise in value, with an average unit price of £240 up 1.9% on the previous year.

Wine cabinets were down overall with a 7.5% drop in volume though value was up significantly at +19.6% with an average unit price of £252 up 29.2% on the previous year.

Surprisingly, SbS was down 17.9% in volume and 8% in value, with a price increase of 12.1% to £825 per unit against £736 the previous year.

“Built-in cooling appliances mostly represent the replacement market,” confirms Joan Fraser, product development and training manager for Smeg, “whereas consumers purchasing a freestanding fridge have more of an emotive purchase reason. Recent months have also seen a shift towards consumers gradually feeling more comfortable with spending, which has helped with larger appliance purchase decisions in general.”

Customer expectations

According to Dean McKelvie, product marketing manager for Whirlpool Freestanding, “Consumers will be expecting to buy into style and energy savings. We don’t just expect a fridge to have optimum storage and lots of compartments with multi-zoning – we also associate a fridge with healthy eating and providing a focal point.”

Whirlpool’s European research survey revealed that customers are looking to reduce food bills, with 75% of UK consumers having changed the way they shop to save money. In fact, 28% are shopping less frequently and 66% are buying in bulk, which places an even greater need for efficient refrigeration storage.

Mark Bristow, managing director at Liebherr, sums up what the market is looking for, “As a lifestyle choice, consumers want labour-saving features like frost free that are big on storage. They also want an appliance that looks good, is cheap to run and has a large capacity.”

New products

All the leading brands have introduced new appliances of late. Samsung has launched the new G Series; Siemens’ iQ100 KG39EAW140G is its latest A+++ fridge freezer, while Smeg launched a stunning new addition to its iconic retro FAB range at the Living Kitchen exhibition in Cologne earlier this year – the FAB28 Chocolate Dream with gold handle, lettering and plaque.

The MasterCool range from Miele features intuitive operation as its key feature and four independent zones for meat, fish, dairy and deli.

Maytag has added to its highly distinctive range of refrigeration appliances with the launch of a new stainless steel MNN20FCS17 side-by-side fridge freezer. The new model boasts an advanced electronic IntelliSense system, which restores the temperature five times’ faster after the door is opened to ensure better food preservation.

For LG, the iPRO offers an impressive 385-litre capacity in a standard 595mm x 2008mm x 671mm casing, whilst Whirlpool has launched the WBC 3546 A+NFXL with 6th Sense Fresh Control – humidity and temperature control throughout the fridge and not just in one drawer.

GE has also revealed the first freestanding side-by-side model in its premium GE Monogram brand. The ZHE25NGWESS offers 719 litres of combined cooling and freezing capacity and includes a range of clever features such as an easily accessible SmartWater filter in the fresh food cavity.

Lec has added two new products to its existing range of combis – the A+ rated TF5517W, a 55cm wide 1.7m high frost free combi and, for those looking for something smaller, the TF5514W – a 55cm 1.4 metre frost free combi offering 184 litres of combined cooling and freezing capacity.

This year Hotpoint will be introducing sophisticated air flow technology and more energy saving A+ and A++ models to its 60cm combis, whilst Indesit will be launching a new frost-free range of fridge freezers.

In April this year, Hoover brought out the freestanding Hoover Dynamic, which is designed to cater for the needs of current consumer lifestyles, offering a 50/50 split with four drawer freezers, glass fridge shelves and an integrated metal wine rack.

In 2011, Haier will be introducing more innovative refrigeration products. The MyZone AFD626 refrigerator incorporates an adaptable middle section, which can be independently controlled from -18˚C to 5˚C. This gives customers greater flexibility, as they can use this section as a fridge or freezer, depending on their needs throughout the year.

De Dietrich recently added the DRC1027JE 282-litre integrated fridge freezer to its appliance collection, which is ideal for those consumers that choose to preserve more fresh foods over frozen produce. The A+ rated 70/30 fridge freezer features fan cooling and anti bacterial linings and comes with a five year guarantee as standard (subject to registration).

The Titan 5 side-by-side refrigerator from Baumatic has an overall capacity of 607 litres. Rated A for energy efficiency, this model features a frost free fridge and freezer, adjustable thermostat and multi airflow cooling system to ensure food is stored at its optimum temperature.

For the ultimate in storage capacity and smart technology, Beko offers the GNE114610X four-door fridge freezer, which boasts a Flexi Zone compartment that can be easily changed between a fridge, chiller, wine cooler and freezer by simply pressing a button on the easy to use touch control.

Taking up the European trend for installing a larder fridge and freezer together, CDA has introduced the FW820 extra large fridge and FW880 freezer.

Design details

The look and styling is of utmost importance to the consumer, whether it’s a sleek integrated model or a stand out freestanding appliance. Stainless steel remains a popular finish and will continue to be a key design for the future. However, we are likely to see more colour variants, especially in a high gloss finish, over the next few years as we enter the post-recession period. Black also is fast becoming the latest colour in cooling and is certainly one to watch for 2011.

Future trends

David Garden, commercial director for Lec and GE at GDHA, says, “We are already seeing two significant movements in the market. Firstly, the chest freezer continues to decline heavily and we believe this is due to issues with space availability, energy efficiency and significant price increases in this sector. In addition, consumers are purchasing new cooling appliances for the kitchen and rather than discarding the old appliance, they are re-locating it to the utility or gara
ge as a spare – which has traditionally been the role of the chest freezer.

“Consumers are demonstrating a real move towards single door tall larders/freezers, with the sector reporting very strong growth (+20% and +30%). We believe that the added capacity and features of a matching set of separate larder and freezer are now preferred by some as an alternative to a side-by-side model. Finally, energy efficiency ratings are vital and more prevalent in the market across all sectors, with more products having A+ and A++ ratings. This is great news for the sector, the environment and Lec, who recently teamed up with the Energy Saving Trust.”

Ruth Ferguson, marketing manager for Gorenje, sees a very high-tech future: “We believe that mobile communications and media tablets will become increasingly integrated into the home, through the use of applications such as Gorenje’s innovative concept technology GreenConnected. Launched on the Gorenje stand at IFA 2010, GreenConnected allows users to monitor the status of individual appliances from remote locations and co-ordinate their operation. The modern consumer is open to the incorporation of contemporary technology into different areas of their homes such as the kitchen, particularly if it makes life easier, and allows them to manage essential tasks while on the move. They are keen to streamline their life as much as possible, making applications such as GreenConnected very desirable.

“Gorenje’s stand at IFA 2010 also featured a concept refrigerator that includes a rechargeable battery to make use of any lower energy tariffs that may be available at different times of the day. The battery can be charged during the lower rate hours, storing energy for release during the higher rate hours, saving the consumer money. We believe that over time, this technology will become integrated into cooling appliances and widely available for purchase.”

Sales Tips

• Display as many products as possible – if the customers can see them for themselves, it helps them visualise them in their own kitchen.

• With every display, have three key features and benefits listed next to the appliance.

• Point out a well-designed interior as this adds more room within the same footprint – deep door storage, glass shelves, sensibly sited lighting, beverage chillers and humidity and temperature-controlled zones.

• Gen up on all the models and brands – make sure you get the right ones on display and in stock to suit your target audience.

• Look for ways of trading the customer up by identifying and understanding their needs and lifestyle and the type of food they buy.

• Take advantage of manufacturer’s training courses. Knowledge breeds confidence as well as smooth professional performance.

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