Cool technology

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Overall, the total refrigeration market is down 9.2% in volume and 6.7% in value, based on GfK figures for year on year Jan 07-Dec 07 against Jan 08-Dec 08. One of the biggest falls is in side-by-side refrigeration, which is down 14.4% in value and 14.6% in value. This could be in part to a slight price increase of 0.3%, with the average price per unit £685.06 against £683.35 the previous year.

There’s some good news for the two-door market with fridge top/freezer bottom models down just 2.3% in value and 4.7% in volume even though prices have increased 2.6% from £303.89 to £311.79.

“The market has seen a growth in freezer sales however,” says Catherine Martin, refrigeration product manager for Miele, “perhaps because consumers are taking advantage of supermarkets’ Buy One Get One Free food offers, prompting a need for more long-term storage.”  Smeg is already one step ahead with the launch of its CVB20 – the first full-length freezer from the FAB retro range.

Market trends

The way to boost profits then is to focus on the replacement market, as many homeowners consider their existing models out of date, inefficient to run and unsuitable for their modern lifestyles. Consumers want to know all about the latest food-preserving technologies, as well as energy efficiency and running costs, which all help make this an investment purchase as many customers are keen to spend money on, if they are given the right advice.

The freestanding market is still the biggest segment, making up 90% of the total volume, but there is a growing trend towards built-in, especially in the new-build sector. “Freestanding appliances are in demand,” confirms Siemens’ brand manager Jane Massey, “particularly American-style fridge freezers, which are still a growing market. Consumer demand for built-in streamlined kitchens will continue to grow in 2009, so there will always be a strong replacement market.”

Bill Miller, sales director for Gorenje, says that one of the reasons why sales of built-in are growing at a faster rate than freestanding is that over recent years the price differential has reduced significantly between the two sectors, making integrated models more affordable.

When it comes to combination two-door fridge freezers, there is an increased interest in 50cm and 55cm wide models instead of the traditional 60cm as a result of smaller kitchens and customers demanding lower price points.

What’s new

All the main players have introduced new and exciting models to market in recent months.  American brand Viking is going bigger and better by launching its integrated ‘all-refrigerator’ and all-freezer’ appliances, available in 76cm and 91cm widths respectively and designed to sit alongside each other for the ultimate fridge/freezer combo. Conversely, Maytag’s latest 20 Series is the smallest size in the company’s line-up and has been introduced to bring greater choice to those who want a large refrigerator with a small footprint.

GE is upping its game on the technology front with a Custom Cool feature that will accurately defrost any food in the crisper drawer while the Express Chill function can chill a bottle of bubbly in just 20 minutes.

For AEG-Electrolux, the biggest technological advance is the arrival of Wave touch control, as seen on its S85628SK1. When the appliance is in sleep mode, the lights are turned off – giving a clean look and conserving energy. However, it is enough to simply wave at the screen to bring it back to life. De Dietrich is also turning on the tech with the first cooling appliance to feature in-built ICS (Intelligent Control System).

Bosch is set to launch a new range for spring 2009, as brand manager Ken Humphrey explains, “New features will include ice water dispensers and temperature controlled drawers, which maximise options for storing food safely and fresher for longer. Customers in the current climate want value for money with their food shop and not to have to waste or throw out food unnecessarily, so we are expecting that these will be a popular choice.”

Amica has just introduced its Elegance range of A+ rated cooling appliances, with 27 models to satisfy every household’s needs, while Beko has brought out the ZA635F under-counter frost-free freezer, the only 55cm model on the market, which makes it ideal for customers who are short on space.

Liebherr has just launched the world’s first 45cm high integrated wine cabinet. Fitting into the same space as a microwave, it’s ideal for those short on space and would make a perfect add-on sale.

Gorenje plans to extend its built-in range by introducing further models with greater storage capacity, such as a 177cm high integrated larder fridge with massive 326-litre storage. Fisher & Paykel is bringing an integrated, multi-temperature refrigeration drawer to the UK, while both Miele and Whirlpool have something up their sleeves. Miele is launching a new range of built-in refrigeration products this spring called MasterCool, while Whirlpool plans to introduce a completely new cooling technology at the premium end of the market.  Ray Isted, brand marketing manager, explains, “This new technology will take a new approach to creating optimum conditions for food preservation and means that fresh food lasts twice as long. Watch this space!”

Customer expectations

Cooling appliances today have to do more than just keep food cold. Consumers are demanding frost-free models and large capacities as well as energy efficient A or A+ ratings.

“Consumers’ buying habits and the increase in demand for healthy foods has meant that people are buying bigger fridges than freezers,” says Richard Cristina, product marketing director for Baumatic, “and looking to extend the life of their fresh food for as long as possible so they don’t have to shop so often.”

“When looking for a built-in cooling product,” adds Claire Newton, brand manager for Belling built-in, “customers look for small and thoughtful features to ensure they get the most from their investment. Offering a range of size options is vital. Built-in kitchens are popular in large houses as well as city apartments, so stocking a variety of size and split options is the best way to attract sales.”

Jeff King, sales and marketing director for Allied Kingswood, confirms that with the significant downturn in appliance sales, it’s essential that retailers go the extra mile and help consumers who will be looking for advice, experience and up-to-the-minute product knowledge. “Independents should promote themselves as experts in the appliance market,” he says, “and as consumers take longer to make purchasing decisions, it is key that they utilise their knowledge to set themselves apart from the multiples and online retailers.”

Design and styling

It seems that while stainless steel is as popular as ever, colour is making a comeback. Falcon’s latest American-style fridge freezer has a huge 622-litre capacity and comes in a variety of vibrant colours such as lime, china blue and cranberry. It also packs in the technology, too, with five temperature sensors, express thaw and express chill functions. GE meanwhile is offering all of its Fusion models in a raft of 19 colours ranging from lime to latte.

We’re also going back to black with attention-grabbing high-gloss black finishes creeping into many manufacturers’ portfolios. “A major trend influencing everything from taps and sinks to fridges is the rise of black finishes,” confirms Amanda Cawood, product and marketing manager for Caple.

Zanussi will be introducing a stainless steel look for spring 2009, while Joan Fraser, National sales support for Smeg UK, forecasts that both black and white finishes are going to be popular, hence the recent launch of the FAB28 in white.

Dan Connell, product manager for Lec,
predicts that exterior design will remain relatively consistent in the near future, with any changes being to the internal furniture of products. “Items, such as additional freezer door storage to provide space for pizzas, will grow in popularity, as consumers look to maximise freezer capacity.”

Sales Tips:

  • Highlight special features with PoS material and explain the lower running costs and eco benefits of A rated appliances.
  • Integrated refrigeration should be displayed within kitchen furniture so the customer can imagine what it would look like in their own home.
  • Make sure stainless steel finishes are kept clean at all times and the interiors well stocked with empty packaging to help customers visualise the capacity.
  • Have a clear range of products that cover the key requirements of the consumer – price, colour, height, width and internal storage – flagging up the differences between them.
  • Remind customers of the importance of a good quality fridge or freezer to help keep food fresh for longer, with less food being thrown away. Different temperature zones and humidity-controlled drawers are key.
  • Ask questions to identify the lifestyle of the customer and what their requirements are, such as what space they have available, how much fresh and frozen food they eat and what their cooking habits are.
  • Offer secondary refrigeration, such as wine coolers, cabinets and cellars for additional sales opportunities.

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