Floorcare – For every need

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Like many domestic appliances sectors, floorcare has become a highly focused market. Consumers are looking for products which meet their needs and if they can’t find one model to do that, they’re prepared to spend on several. Nearly a third of all UK homes now have two or more vacuum cleaners; usually uprights are the main cleaner, for use on carpets, while a cylinder is for stairs and upstairs or for the increasingly popular hardwood and laminate floors.
Horses for courses
This willingness to branch out on vacuum cleaner purchases has also led to an increase in the prevalence of more ‘feature-orientated’ products. There are now several cleaners aimed chiefly at pet owners, with sturdy hoses to shift stubborn pet hair (manufacturers include Sebo, Electrolux and Morphy Richards); and at those with allergies, so models feature HEPA filters, or as with Morphy Richards, a tie-up with the British Allergy Foundation. There have even been attempts at ‘all rounder’ products for pet hair and different surfaces, such as Vitesse from Electrolux (see Products to Watch).
Charles Gordon, international markets director at Bissell, believes his company has already ticked that box with it’s Proheat All-Rounder. “It’s a modern, total, cleaning machine, which washes and vacuums hard floors and carpets – a powerful 2,400W vacuum cleaner, which turns into an effective simple, speedy hard floor cleaner with easy-fit heads for different surfaces,” he says. “It’s the only vacuum cleaner which deep cleans carpets too and can be used on tiles, wood, even unsealed laminates. It’s a machine which fits with today’s lifestyles and takes floor cleaning to a higher level.”
Long may this enthusiasm continue and on a more basic level, there will be ongoing development and activity – it’s a combination of manufacturers realising they can squeeze more out of the consumer and those consumers responding because products actually meet their needs.
Jane Lee, marketing and product category manager at Bosch, says floorcare is a stable and mature market. “Trends haven’t changed dramatically over the last few years – it tends to be a stable core of brands with other ‘newcomers’ or ‘focus products’ making quick entry, gaining market share and then leaving just as quickly.”
Market trends
There are some key aspects to the floorcare market, which is now worth nearly £517 million on 6.5 million unit sales (GfK, March 2008). Value saw a 4.3% rise, while volume was only slightly up by 0.3%. In value terms, traditional uprights dominate (at 52.6%) compared to a combined 40.3% share for the cylinder ‘family’ of cleaners – barrel (down 4%) and sledge (up 12%).
Uprights are actually down (6.6% in value, 1.6% volume) but retaining a good price level has softened the blow – average price for an upright is around £109 compared to £92 for a barrel model and £64 for a sledge.
On the volume side, it is cylinders which take the lion’s share – 3.03 million units compared to uprights on 2.5 million.
Bagless cleaners are the other winners too – half of all cylinders and around 90% of all upright models purchased are bagless. While the benefits of bagless are obvious (saving money on bags and convenience of supply), there are some downsides according to Nick Munton, managing director at Electrolux Floorcare. “There is often the unpleasant job of emptying the dust container, so it is worth reminding consumers to look out for easy-to-empty dust containers,” he says.
Design also plays a part and Electrolux has reflected that in its range for some time – the latest example being the Vitesse in pink, yellow and blue. “Design and colour are both very important features for consumers when it comes to choosing their vacuum cleaner,” says Nick Munton. “Our recent survey showed that over 70% of people class it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’.”
So just who is splashing out on floorcare? Annabel Waite, category consumer manager at Morphy Richards says vacuum cleaners are usually a distress purchase, with consumers entering the market on average after a five to seven year absence. “During that time, features and technology have moved on and so brands that educate the consumer and help them make their choice easier will succeed,” she says.
Health issues
With over 20 million people in the UK suffering from allergies, this is likely to be an area of growth. Jamie Lennox, managing director at Home-tek, says home cleanliness is becoming ever more important and people are looking at ways of ‘sterilising’ their homes. “I expect to see more products in the market which focus on sterilising floor surfaces,” he says. “Specialised products are very important in this and are selling in big numbers and I expect that to continue.” Home-tek’s line-up includes the Light ‘n’ Easy Steam Mop which the company claims sold 250,000 units in 2007.
Old-new favourites
Figures from GfK do bear out that some of the more ‘niche’ products are finding favour with consumers. While steam cleaners were actually static in 2007 (down 0.3% in value, up 0.4% in volume), a product with a long heritage saw fantastic growth. The electric sweeper is a more modern take on the model favoured by grannies up and down the country for decades. Value was up nearly 50% and volume up nearly 60%. Jamie Lennox has some good advice on this area. “We have to make retailers aware that categories like steam cleaning and carpet sweepers are important and rapidly growing,” he says. “Retailers in turn have to convince the consumer and there is no better way than by demonstrating the product in-store, either physically or via DVD.”
Ewbank is the brand favoured by those grannies but all credit to the company for updating the product (see Products to Watch). Director of sales and marketing Steve Derbyshire says the main motivation for purchasing a rechargeable sweeper is ease of use and convenience. “They have been designed as an effective and quick to use complement to the household vacuum cleaner and the perfect stand alone tool for apartments and mobile or holiday homes,” he says. “There has been considerable growth in this sector as consumers look for a lightweight energy efficient complement to their usual vacuum cleaner.”
Going green
Eco friendly products is a growing trend – Morphy Richards has brought together three products in its PerformAir range with ‘eco’ credentials (see Products to Watch) – and there are several models in the market also flagged as ‘energy saving’. This will become increasingly the case says Jamie Lennox. “We can expect the trend of higher wattages in vacuum cleaners to start to reverse, as energy efficiency becomes more of an issue for consumers,” he says.
Things to come
Morphy’s Annabel Waite says ease-of-use will continue to be a strong trend. “There will be more add-on accessories in the market place, giving more control for more efficient cleaning and extending the uses of existing models,” she says. Cleaning kits will be an area of growth for the future too.”
Jane Lee at Bosch feels future trends will be more marketing-led. “It is sometimes hard to get the features and benefits across to the consumer and quality brands are working on their own ways of making it easier for them, in terms of choosing, using and maintaining products,” she says, highlighting her company’s Pro Energy and Home Professional ranges, which offer high end specs linked with attractive consumer benefits. “It’s all about making the job easier for the consumer.”

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