It is a well know fact that Britain is far behind the rest of Europe in terms of household penetration of dishwashers. While nearly 60% of German and 80% of Swedish homes are equipped with dishwashers, less than 30% of British families own one.
Some independent retailers to whom IER spoke don’t understand what the fuss around the dishwasher market is about. The customers which enter their stores looking for a dishwasher are determined to buy one. If they are first time buyers they are seeking the retailer’s advice on the performance of various models and their features. If they are looking for a replacement, they are prepared to consider higher prices for superior performance. Therefore the retailer rarely sees a reluctant dishwasher buyer.
The manufacturers, however, make great efforts and investment to equip dishwashers with the latest technology and offer a huge choice of styles and designs to cater for every customer need, but so far they fail to appeal to 70% of the British market.
Yet, if we take the approach that the glass is half full rather than half empty, the UK market penetration of dishwashers should be seen as a considerable opportunity. Stuart Frost, product marketing manager at Maytag, points out: “Most of us would agree that there is still plenty of room for the dishwasher market to grow. The appliance still suffers from the misconception that it costs too much to run, and many can’t envisage the huge time saving that it generates. With the planet going into melt-down, it is essential that we impress on the consumer the great advantages this intelligent appliance brings”.
Over the last five years the dishwasher market has shown a healthy growth, with consumers spending £263 million in 2006 to avoid one of the most disliked of domestic chores. During the last 12 months, the market grew 2.7% in terms of value and 2.5% in volume terms. The sales of dishwashers reached 888 thousand units. The average price of a dishwasher was £296, although the price of a full-size unit reached £307.
Anthony Williams, senior account manager at GfK comments: “Whilst price erosion is certainly a factor in the success of the product, the general rise in consumer spending on refitting kitchens has further bolstered the dishwasher market. With evidence that Britain is beginning to suffer a credit-induced hangover, it is perhaps no surprise that more and more people look to the Internet to grab a bargain. Nearly 10% of dishwashers were bought online in 2006, the highest share of Internet volume in 2006 for any major appliance (see graph on page 34).”
Built-in dishwashers have increased by nearly 25% over the past two years and now make up over a quarter of the total dishwashing market. Heather England, marketing manager, built-in division, at Hoover Candy, explains this trend: “It seems that when people are redesigning their kitchen, making space for a dishwasher is a priority. Consumers increasingly want an overall streamlined, seamless and clutter-free look for their kitchens and where there are no separate utility rooms, dishwashers can be completely tidied away behind an integrated door.”
The line of resistance…and attack
The reasons why dishwasher penetration is low in Britain remain the same:
• lack of space in the kitchen,
• the perception, particularly among older generation, that they are luxury items,
• persisting ignorance about dishwasher’s water and energy consumption.
In fact, the market is awash with all shapes and sizes of free standing and integrated dishwashers. 450mm slim-line models, such as the Stoves 45 ODW or the Slimline Candy CDI 45, have an eight-place setting capacity and many programmes and temperature settings. Fisher & Paykel’s DishDrawer has two independently operated drawers, with six place settings each, and a number of manufacturers now offer table-top dishwashers.
The arguments to refute two other objections are offered by Richard Walker, FagorBrand UK sales and marketing director: “A dishwasher will use, on average 15,000 litres less water in a year than washing up by hand. On average, electricity savings will be around £30 per year as opposed to that used heating water to run from the tap. The most precious commodity, however, is time and an average of over 400 hours per year can be saved by using a dishwasher as opposed to standing at the sink and washing up by hand. A dishwasher will save space, as all dishes can be stacked away neatly in the machine and placed back in a cupboard once dried. This is a far better way of drying than using dishcloths; as they can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.”
Modern dishwashers offer a variety of features and benefits – at every level and price point. It is important for the retailer to understand each manufacturer’s ranges to be able to offer consumer products which suits best their needs. Stuart Frost of Maytag comments: “Depending on whether this is their first purchase or a replacement the requirements will vary. Those first in the market will be seeking price and economy; those trading up will understand their dishwashing needs and will wish for built quality, quietness and programmes to address their specific household requirements.”
Shortly, an overriding consideration for all customers is likely to be the need to reduce running costs of domestic appliances. Many top of the range dishwashers already achieve very impressive water and energy savings, such as the Maytag MSE860FARS which offers three washing levels, using just 9.9 litres per cycle. This coincides with greater use of internal space (such as on Hoover Nextra with 15-place setting capacity) and innovative wash programmes to clean various utensils and materials.
The customers are also getting an increasingly wide choice of ‘intelligent’ dishwashers (incorporating ‘turbidity sensing’ technology, which automatically senses how dirty the dishes are and adjusts the programme for water consumption, energy use and time). For example, NEFF S44TO9 offers fully automatic programming for each load. These dishwashers are often very easy to operate, such as the Electrolux Visi dishwasher, which has one button behind which are five automatic options.
“Noise level is also becoming more important. With the availability of cheap night time electricity, a consumer can run a wash cycle through the night, taking advantage of the cheap energy without the fear of waking the family,” says Alexandros Zachos, product manager at Indesit. Moreover, “more consumers are living, eating and entertaining in the kitchen. Research carried out last year by Electrolux and the Future Foundation confirmed that home entertaining is on the increase – 75% of the population now entertain guests at home more than once a month, “comments Dawn Stockell, UK brand & marketing manager at Electrolux Major Appliances.
Ragip Balcioglu, Beko’s director of buying and product, draws attention to the new direction in dishwasher product development: “If we look at recent trends we can expect the drawer revolution to continue. For the consumer, dishwasher drawers are seen as a way of maximising the available space and a modern twist on design.”
Education, education, education
Therefore, what should be done to change this problematic area into an opportunity? Stuart Frost of Maytag suggests: “We do need to re-educate the consumer and change the perception that the dishwasher is a luxury. We have been trying so hard for so long to convert the consumer that we assume that everyone is aware of dishwashers’ superb benefits”.
The responsibility for educating the consumer about the fundamental benefits of dishwasher ownership rests with both manufacturers and retailers. While dishwasher manufacturers,run a variety of promotional initiatives for the users, it is the retailer who can do the best job demonstrating the features of various product ranges, while communicating the facts about their efficiencies.
There is hope on the horizon
While both the manufacturers and retailers need to continue educating the customer, their efforts will be supported by a couple of market factors. The first is the resource scarcity which will require making fundamental changes to the way we run our households. As the energy bill will rise further and water meters will become commonplace, a dishwasher may become a welcome allay in managing household bills.
Moreover, there is an increasing number of consumers who have grown up with a dishwasher, and are well aware of its benefits. “As we seem to have a society that’s made up of very time poor people who conversely seem inordinately interested in cooking, a dishwasher would seem to be heaven sent,“ adds Nicole Cowley, Whirlpool category manager. Finally, increasingly dense urban developments will have fitted kitchens, in which dishwashers will come as standard.
All this suggests that the dawn of the dishwasher era in Britain is just around the corner.
What to ask your customers when selling dishwashers
Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff, advises
• How many people are in the household? If it’s a larger household, then they may need the crockery back quickly before the next meal. Equally if they had a half load function as well, they could run the machine after breakfast. Half load uses 30% less water and 15% less energy than a full load.
• How often do you currently run your dishwasher? If they often have to run it twice then you should propose a half load function as above.
• Do you like to entertain? This usually means that there will be a variety of serving dishes, cover plates, fine glassware and larger utensils. All of these can be accommodated in the Varioflex basket system simply by folding down the racks.
• What items do you not put in your dishwasher? Some customers still believe they can wash saucepans better themselves by letting them soak, or they prefer to wash glassware separately. This is not necessary with a dishwasher with sensor programmes.