Home laundry: Spinning innovations

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A few years ago, washing machines were regarded as purely functional products and customers were only interested in the number of programmes, spin speed and price. Things have changed, however, and with the current interest in energy and water efficiency, not to mention exciting advances in technology and design, they are looking for a lot more.
Market trends

Lifestyle continues to be one of the key factors driving the home laundry sector as Dinos Vassiloulis, product manager for Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, confirms: “With the pace of modern living becoming even faster, time saving and ease of use have become top priorities for consumers, bringing benefit-led appliances to the fore.”

The market in general was healthier for tumble dryers than washing machines with washers’ volume down 0.3%, while tumble dryers were up 0.5%, according to GfK’s figures for 2006. Value was also down 1.6% for washing machines but up 0.2% for tumble dryers.

One of the major trends of recent years is the eco-friendly move towards reducing the amount of water used in the wash as well as the energy consumed. Customers are increasingly aware of the benefits of AAA rated appliances and are willing to pay a premium for such models.

Large capacities of 7kg plus are also becoming popular as this is a feature that many consumers see as being particularly useful for washing bed linen and bigger loads. “As long as the larger capacity machines have sensor technology,” says Nicole Cowley, category manager for laundry at Whirlpool, “such as our 6th Sense to prevent water and energy being wasted when small loads are used, the customer wins all round.”

Forward thinking

Manufacturers are developing new technologies at a rapid rate so the challenge for the independent is to keep up with the latest features.

Beko is certainly seeing the fruits of its labour with 33% growth over the last year. Its Xpress washing machine includes a super short 14-minute programme as well as a 30 and 58-minute option, making it the quickest washer on the market at full load. Miele continues its dedication to fabric care with the SensorRinse and SenSor Dry systems, while De Dietrich offers AVC (Automatic Variable Capacity) where the machine monitors the size of the load, adjusting the water intake and duration of the programme accordingly. Fagor features an exclusive ABS (Advanced Balance System) function that electronically controls and distributes clothes evenly in the drum.

Hoover recently unveiled a new portfolio of products for 2007, including the VisionHD with a 3D Dynamic Wash System, that utilises increased water pressure, curved paddles and a raised dome system to move the laundry in a three-dimensional way.

New for September is the BlueTouch with steam cycle washer from Whirlpool. The benefits of which are a better, bacteria-free wash at lower temperatures. Battling bacteria is also on the agenda for Baumatic, which has developed an antibacterial surface similar to the coating used in fridge freezers.

Miele is overcoming the problem of under or over using liquid detergent with its LiquidWash dispensing system while LG continues its take on the steam process with the Steam Direct Drive models

One of the biggest launches this year saw the introduction of the Electrolux EWN14991W Time Manager, which lets the user choose a sensible running time to fit in with their busy lifestyle.

Programme innovations

The key words are speed and efficiency when it comes to wash programmes. “Fagor machines all feature Turbo- Time,” says Richard Walker, sales and marketing director for FagorBrandt UK, “which is a unique washing system that improves wash results while reducing washing times.” Many manufacturers are following the lead, as Smeg has recently introduced a 30º quick wash programme, and Maytag offers a 35-minute wash for smaller loads.

When it comes to energy efficiency, Whirlpool’s SuperEco programme, which is available on its 8kg models, saves up to 40% energy, while the DLZ614J from De Dietrich also features an Eco wash system.

Maytag’s sensor control machine has a user interface that can be customised to store up to four favourite programmes while the Super Rinse function is ideal for families with young children or those with sensitive skin. Beko’s range also includes models with a 65º wash specially designed for baby and toddler clothing.

Gorenje’s WA65205 top of the range model not only offers an outstanding 2000rpm spin speed but its touch control screen allows the user to create their own programmes and name them; a feature that has been a key selling point for retailers.

Whirlpool has introduced a jeans programme onto its 7kg range of washing machines, and specialist programmes are sure to appeal to the consumer, as Jane Massey, Siemens’ brand manager, confirms: “I think more specialist programmes like stain removal and silk and lingerie options are all important elements to be considered as they affect the customer’s quality of life. Convenience is still a vital factor in this market.”

Miele takes garment care very seriously with a series of programmes to cater for specific items such as a Shirts programme that helps prevent creasing, a Dark Garments function with high water levels and three rinse phases; a Denim option that prevents streaky discolouration and an Outwear programme to preserve the functional qualities of outdoor clothing. “What’s more, the load sensor in the W3922 means that the customer doesn’t have to guess the laundry load any more so items can be added or removed as necessary,” adds Andrew Jones, Miele product manager.

Size matters

Manufacturers are thinking big with larger capacities in standard sized cabinets. “The key advantage is simple,” explains Amanda Lowe, marketing and product manager at Caple. “A larger capacity results in fewer wash cycles and therefore an obvious energy saving. It is an uncomplicated message and one that Caple is trying to promote.”

The Bosch Logixx 8, LG’s Direct Drive and Candy’s Grand O are just a few examples of 8kg models. “These cater for larger loads so the consumer does less washes whilst getting maximum performance,” says Ken Humphrey, Bosch brand manager.

Hoover has gone one better with its VisionHD range of 9kg washers and dryers that still fit within the standard appliance footprint. They also feature larger portholes for easy loading and unloading and a central programming dial suitable for left and right-handed users.

Meanwhile Baumatic offers the Mega10 model with a generous 10kg drum.

Built-in is burgeoning

Integrated models are still sought after and the market reflects a steady growth. “With the rise of apartment living and kitchen space increasingly coming at a premium, integrated appliances provide an ideal solution for those wanting to create a sleek look without compromising on function,” confirms Dinos Vassiloulis, product manager for Glen Dimplex Home Appliances.

In fact, integrated washer-dryer sales are growing strongly according to Siemens’ brand manager Jane Massey: “Particularly in the contract market where the sector is worth £100,000 as opposed to freestanding which is static.”

Design details

Styling plays an important role in the home laundry sector with many manufacturers introducing a range of sophisticated, and sometimes space-age designs. The iconic Indesit Moon for example has an innovative interface and coloured door with an integrated dispenser that delivers detergent directly into the heart of the wash. Maytag’s stainless steel 60 Series comes with a full width drop-down door that conceals the porthole and provides a handy platform for the laundry, while LG has teamed up with Designer’s Guild to create four limited edition models in a range of colourful printed designs.

Hoover hopes to make a splash in the premium market with its high style collection, which includes the VisionHD 8kg washing machine in matt black. Steve Holton, marketing and strategic planning director at Hoover Candy Group, says, “This is the first time we’ve offered such a highly stylised collection of appliances and we wanted to make a big impression”.

When it comes to settings, the latest advances include a unique control panel interface on Maytag’s 60 Series. “Not only do the new control panels boast text programme graphics but the MAF9501 introduces the easy-to-use Tri- Button control,” explains Stuart Frost, Maytag’s product marketing manager.

For those who favour the electronic age, De Dietrich has unveiled a range of integrated laundry products with LCD displays and a stylish black finish, while Whirlpool’s BlueTouch models use LCD technology for full feedback and intuitive easy programming.

Tumble dryers

The tumble dryer market shows a growing shift towards condenser dryers as they can be positioned anywhere in the house.

Electrolux recently introduced the EDI96150 Iron Aid – a tumble dryer that uses a steam programme to remove creases with a refresh option to remove creases and odours, particularly useful for dry-clean only items.

Hoover has launched a new range of VisionHD dryers in both 8kg and 9kg sizes. The 9kg version comes with a glass door, which is sure to win in the style stakes. They also feature a patented drying system that reduces heat loss giving the appliances their impressive B+ energy rating.

Siemens, LG, Beko and Miele are just a few examples of manufacturers that offer sensor drying, while Caple is one of the first to offer a fully integrated vented model. “We developed the TDi100 to include an integral extendable hose and wall outlet,” explains marketing and product manager Amanda Lowe.

As an alternative to traditional tumbling, Fagor recently unveiled the Driron, which uses a process of humidification to dry clothing while reducing wrinkles. The freestanding appliance can either be plumbed in to the mains drainage or filled with water from a jar, allowing it to fit anywhere in the home. “Its advantages are numerous,” says Richard Walker, sales and marketing director at FagorBrandt UK. “Laundry remains static in the machine so there is never any wear and tear, which is the main disadvantage of a tumble dryer when contact is made with the drum.”

Maytag’s Drying Cabinet is also ideal for drying anything from expensive shirts to wet Wellies and umbrellas. It comes in white or stainless steel and is fitted with sliding racks and hangers to create a flexible and versatile drying area.

Sales tips

  • Price is still a driving force where most distress purchases are concerned so the independent needs to be trained to sell benefits such as water and energy efficiency, sensor drying, fabric care and product guarantees
  • Demonstrate ease of use with touch controls, clear text fascias and inclined drums
  • Families with young children may be interested in high temperature programmes that offer a bacteria-free wash
  • Customers will want a model that fits in with their kitchen décor so ask about their style tastes and whether they want an integrated or freestanding appliance

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