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Traditionally, washing machines and tumble dryers were seldom purchased for their state-of-the-art features and high spec programming. It was more a case of replacing a worn or broken down model in a hurry. But all this has changed in recent years, thanks to the wave of high-tech laundry features that have flooded the market.

Richard Walker, sales and marketing director for De Dietrich, says, “Excellent design, better energy and water efficiency together with larger capacities have all had a positive impact on the laundry market and in this current climate, consumers are taking a more long-term approach to purchasing washing machines, making them less of a distress purchase. Consumers will pay more for machines with real technological benefits that are easy to use and last longer – and will consider products with longer warranties.”

Market trends

According to the latest figures from GfK, the performance of the home laundry sector in 2009 was disappointing in terms of sales volume but promising in terms of value. Overall, washing machines were down 6.4% in volume but up 1.7% in value. Last year, 2,539 thousand automatic washing machines, worth £806 million, were sold in the UK, with an average unit price of £317, up 8.6% on the previous year.

Seema Baines, GfK account manager, comments: “The washing machine sector was the only MDA market to register positive growth in 2009, up 1.7% in value to £806m. Price erosion has been kept at bay in most MDA markets because of the forced manufacturer price increases across the majority of ranges. Within the washing machines category these price increases coupled with the increasing importance of high capacity machines to the market has helped stabilise value. Last year was the year of big capacity with the over 7kg market seeing growth of 18%. These products now account for more than one third of the overall market, which represents a whopping £299m. A similar trend can be seen within tumble dryers where big capacity machines represent 50% of the market.”

Sales of 8.1-9kg models increased by a staggering 88.8% in volume and 115.3% in value, indicating that consumers are looking for large capacity appliances to wash more clothes, less often.

There was also good news for A++AA rated washers, which grew by 126.4% in volume, 123.4% in value.

Tumble dryers however dropped in both volume and value, with a 20.4% drop in volume and 12.9% drop in value for 2009. Condensers and vented freestanding models were both down year on year. Built-in vented models performed better with a 0.6% increase in volume and 7.9% rise in value.

Latest technology

There have been some major advances in washing technology of late with features such as sensor washing and automatic stain removal systems. Says Dean McKelvie, freestanding product manager for Whirlpool, “Intelligent appliances are taking the guesswork out of the consumers’ hands, as part of the energy efficiency trend. We are seeing sensor technology incorporated to calibrate water and energy usage and our next generation washing machines will inform of the correct amount of detergent to use, too.”

Speaking of detergents, the latest washers from Smeg include an Enzyme Phase and Eco System, which helps users get the most from their bio detergents by slowly releasing the enzymes that help tackle tough stains.

Samsung is another manufacturer utilising the latest technology as Andrew Jones, senior product manager, explains, “Our AIR Refresh cycle removes wrinkles and odours from clothes using warm air, so there’s no need to get the iron out, and you can also freshen your dry-clean only laundry at home.”

Even mid-market brands are getting in on the act. Hotpoint and Indesit both feature energy saving sensor technology in their ranges, as well as a new Auto Dose System washing machine in Hotpoint’s Aqualtis collection, which automatically measures out the correct amount of liquid detergent and fabric softener for each wash. Other Aqualtis models also now feature steam functions as standard.

Electrolux is no stranger to intelligent design, as laundry expert Chandra Kunche confirms, “The electronics used in washing machines have become more and more sophisticated, which greatly enhances wash performance and optimises the use of resources like water and energy. For example, the Jetsystem+ wash technology from Electrolux adjusts water, time and energy used based on the load size. Our new top of the range AEG model comes with a load sensor, which not only tells you the exact weight of the wash load but also recommends the right detergent dosage level.”

New products

There will be plenty to shout about this year, as all the main players have something new to market.

Whirlpool’s 2010 laundry portfolio will introduce an intuitive new layout of the controls, designed to match consumers’ needs. There are also new programmes such as ‘black and dark’, ‘white only’ and ‘white and light’.

This spring, Hoover is launching its Optima 7 slim depth washing machine. Though only 40cm deep, it can still handle a 7kg load. Gorenje is introducing the WA60125, which harnesses UseLogic technology to monitor the purity of the water and amount of foam, while all its washing machines for 2010 will incorporate the new SterilTub self-cleaning programme, which helps eradicate the bacteria and odours in the drum sometimes associated with low temperature washing.

Polish brand Amica will be introducing new laundry models to the UK market in April, in both 5kg and 7kg sizes. The 7kg model is A+ rated with LED display, 1200rpm maximum spin speed, temperature and water level regulation options and 15 programmes including a brand new self-clean cycle.

The big launch from Baumatic is the Premium range BA140 7kg fully integrated washing machine, which comes with a digital countdown indicator and A rating, while Allied Kingswood’s key model is the KIW12A with 18 wash programmes and variable spin.

Efficient programming

Energy and water efficiency are key selling points, so it’s important that retailers take advantage of the many features that manufacturers are currently introducing. The Hoover Dynamic 10 super-sized washing machine is not only A+ rated for energy efficiency, but it also uses 69% less water and 42% less electricity when compared with standard models.

All Belling and Stoves integrated washers and washer dryers feature fuzzy logic sensors that monitor varying conditions inside the machine, automatically adjusting themselves to maximise wash results using as little energy and water as possible.

“When it comes to key features, sensor technology is a big plus,” confirms Caple’s sales director Danny Lay. “It takes the hassle out of picking which programme to use and ensures that each load is efficient.”

Tumble dryers

The latest model from AEG-Electrolux is the Sensidry T59850, which consumes 40% less energy than the minimum requirement for an A rated dryer.

Team UKI is carrying through their niche compact washing machine and tumble dryer this year, while Crosslee aims to be making waves with its unique gas tumble dryer. Babak Daemi, marketing manager, explains what the current market means to them, “We are seeing signs that along with the desire for more eco-friendly products, the consumer wants to know that they can still buy products manufactured in Britain and of course, competitively priced goods. We have launched a new range of silver dryers, which covers our compact and larger drum capacities, as well as being available in both vented and condenser models. We also plan to launch a new electronic display model, which will have a delay timer as well as being available in vented and condenser versions. This will also be available
in the White Knight eco range. This is our low carbon gas dryer collection, which is 61% cheaper to run than most electric dryers and has 54% lower carbon emissions. With many independents taking on the White Knight eco green dryer in the beginning of 2010, we expect the awareness to rise to its highest levels for some time.”

What’s next?

For Siemens, energy saving is a priority so the brand will be launching a new iQ700 laundry range with their best ever ratings. This year LG will have a number of main focuses – capacity, steam and direct drive – and new to market is the 11kg with steam.

Maytag has recently introduced the option of a selection of doors for the integrated MWA720IIA in white or black gloss or stainless steel. It’s also launched its latest washers and dryers in classic gloss black with large capacity options.

Beko will be launching the WMB91242L in May – a 9kg washer that will be added to its Excellence collection to meet the increasing demand for large capacity washing machines. And in June, Miele will introduce a world-first into the washing machine market with its W1945 Eco Comfort, which features the unique Eco Feedback function. By selecting this option, the machine can provide the user with accurate information on actual energy and water consumption in the previously used cycle. This will help raise awareness of and enable consumers to become more knowledgeable about energy and water efficiency in their laundry habits.

Bosch also reveals it’s going to be unveiling some great new products for this year so watch this space.

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