Grow the market

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- Updated

Regular readers of IER magazine may recall that in early 2007 I wrote a piece entitled “Grow the Market”. It referred to the need to look at the broad range of items which fall into the general category of domestic appliances. In some cases, the market penetration of these products in the UK was quite low. In other words there was tremendous potential to ‘grow the market’.

It has to be said that in early 2007 Britain was still in a housing boom. The government had also publicly endorsed the need for a substantial increase in housing stock. Its projections showed that between then and 2015, over 200,000 new houses and flats would be built.

More households would mean more domestic appliances, though how many of the new appliances required would be sourced through retailers and how many through house developers was difficult to say.

Market opportunities

The UK housing market looks very different now. But the opportunities to grow the market are still considerable, especially for those products where market penetration is still low.

The main focus for many manufacturers and retailers will remain what we might call the ‘mainstream’ domestic appliances – washing machines, fridges and freezers, kettles, vacuum cleaners and suchlike. There are many opportunities here, particularly where much effort has been put into making and selling modern, efficient and attractive products. Take a look through the pages of IER magazine and you will see the range of features now available.

There are, of course, other home appliances where market penetration is much lower, and opportunities for future sales are considerable.

These are products which can deliver considerable lifestyle and environmental benefits to consumers. They have ‘green credentials’, something that is of greater concern to consumers today than was perhaps the case three years ago.

One of them is the dishwasher. Not exactly a new product but one which so far is found in only 30% of UK homes, compared to 50% in some European countries and in the US. Therefore we need to actively promote the proven environmental and cost-saving benefits of this product to the consumer. Through CECED, AMDEA’s European Trade Association, we have accumulated laboratory data comparing water, energy and detergent use by dishwashers against washing by hand, and the dishwashers come out on top. So let’s get out and sell these products as something which will do away with those unwanted after-dinner chores as well as helping the environment.

Opportunities in waste disposal

Another undersold product is the waste disposal unit. Relatively simple to install, these fit into the drain line under the sink and grind food waste into small particles that are flushed into the wastewater system with cold water. Food waste is calculated to amount to around 20% of household waste. At a time when householders are under ever-increasing pressure to minimise and separate their waste, and often have to wait 14 days for the dustman, a waste disposal unit is an absolute boon. No more smelly overflowing bins in the kitchen and plastic bags ripped apart by birds and animals in the back yard.

Many local authorities have woken up to the fact that waste disposal units can play an important part in helping them meet their required limits on waste going into landfill. Failure to do so will result in fines. Moreover, there is a greater awareness of the costs in terms of carbon emissions from transportation of waste for disposal. And not only do waste disposal units save handling and landfill costs, but they actually increase the quality of sewage and allow it to be returned to the land. Throughout Europe there is a move towards large-scale use of these products, eg in Sweden’s capital city Stockholm.

The market penetration of waste disposal units in the UK is only around 5%, compared to 50% in the US. This is a product which is still relatively unknown to much of the British public – what a sales opportunity!

As I remarked back in 2007, with the right sales and marketing approach, dishwashers and waste disposal units are desirable commodities; an essential part of the modern home and kitchen. Good for lifestyle and the environment. And this is just as true in today’s difficult economic conditions as it was in the ‘boom years’.

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