The big solutions

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Overall, the total UK cooking market (excluding microwaves, hobs and hoods) has declined by 9.6% in volume year on year to 527 thousand units for the first four months of the year, according to GfK figures for January to April 2009. However, range cookers have declined even more – by 27.3% to 35.6 thousand units for the same period. This is mainly due to the decline of the housing market and the current recession.

“The range cooker market has taken a substantial hit over the past few years as the full impact of the recession has hit the UK,” confirms Rob Burton, commercial manager for range cooking at Glen Dimplex Home Appliances. “Feedback from our retailers has shown that where consumers are looking to buy range cookers, the trend for energy efficient products is the most prevalent, as people look to save both money and the environment. In fact, GfK data (MAT May 2009), has shown that whilst all other sectors of the range market have experienced a decline in sales over the past three years, the electric fuel sector is experiencing growth. It now accounts for 41% of the range cooker market and is challenging dual fuel as the preferred fuel type.   

In our opinion, continuing high energy prices have prompted consumers to look for ways in which they can save money and electric fuelled, energy efficient appliances allow them to do just that. Everything must have eco credentials these days, and the range cooking sector is no exception.  It is standard practice for a customer to ask if a range cooker is ‘A’ rated.”

Key trends

A few years back, the freestanding range cooker could command sales purely based on its high performance and aesthetic look. But as the recession hit, trends have changed and customers today want a complete cooking solution that meets all their needs for as little spend as possible.

Mark Bristow at Viking UK points out that interest in large capacity models is down to the popularity of home entertaining while general manager of Steel Cuisine Mark Scott says that market trends today are towards more specialised, quality products, “Induction is catching on across the whole appliance market but particularly on range cookers. The more minimalist, professional looking ranges are aesthetically appealing for the new kitchen buyers.”

It’s true that a key drive for purchase is achieving that lifestyle statement with a centerpiece range cooker but consumers are savvier than ever before and what with ever-increasing energy tariffs and a keen interest in green credentials, there has been a recent revival in solid fuel, central heating cookers. Ian Kingscott, technical director at Redfyre, says that the average heating bill is estimated by uSwitch to be as high as £5,000 by 2020, so energy efficiency is far more important now than it has ever been. That’s certainly true within the cast iron range cooker sector, where sales for oil cookers are steadily declining. This is something that Esse are particularly interested in as its flueless electric cooker offers the perfect alternative. As it’s flueless, it can be installed almost anywhere as it simply plugs in and comes with either a ceramic electric hob or gas hob with wok burner.

Other emerging trends include bespoke products with a greater opportunity to customise your range cooker as well as a wider choice of hob top configurations.

New solutions

Colour is a hot topic, with Falcon introducing a bronze option on its popular 1092 Deluxe range cooker while Rangemaster offers the cranberry Professional +FX, which is ideal for creating a warm welcome in time for Christmas. “It also offers the addition of a single cavity range cooker,” adds marketing manager Holly Sleight. “The core feature is a patented panel divider, which enables the user to choose between an outstanding oven capacity of 108 litres or a more modest 49 litres. The aim of this panel is to ensure that the user is limiting the energy used to a minimum when cooking for a few people.” It also benefits from the addition of a new teppan yaki griddle that fits over the burners and can be used for Japanese style cooking.

Smeg has gone monochrome in response to the growing demand for black and white appliances. Its Symphony SY4110 model is now available in bold black and striking white.

De Dietrich is still the only brand that produces a range cooker with Pyroclean self-cleaning in both multifunction ovens, making the DCM6120X the most attractive model on the market when it comes to easy cleaning.

New from Steel Cuisine is the three-oven induction hob Genesi, which comes with separate grill and colourful new finishes to entice a younger market while GDHA has continued to invest heavily in new product development, releasing two new range cookers this year. Stoves’ two-oven SXS has been designed with input from celebrity chef Brian Turner and has a generous 152 litre capacity with central thermo plate system that can warm up to eight plates. The Belling DB4 has all the features of a traditional range but with a contemporary look.

Cannon’s latest products incorporate the Precision Cooking System, with two advanced automatic cooking modes to bring out the best in every cook. Profile Cook programmes are designed to cook meat, poultry and fish while Profile Bake is ideal for cakes and bread.

Britannia’s twin and XG versions of the Sigma, Dynasty and Classic 100cm models now feature induction technology with larger cooking zones than any other induction range cooker currently on the market. “Consumers are starting to ask for induction more frequently,” explains director of marketing Henneke Duistermaat, “as the advantage of its efficiency and sensitivity become more widely understood, and we are very keen to supply this demand. Offering induction to our already established product range adds another string to our bow and hopefully gives retailers an even more attractive proposition for their customers.”

What customers want

There’s no doubt that expectations have risen considerably in the last year. We’re all spending less money and when we do part with our hard-earned cash, we expect higher quality and better service. When consumers are buying a premium brand, they also demand robust design and high quality construction so features, such as quadruple glazed oven doors, safety shelves and solid cast iron pan supports, should be emphasized. Customers are also looking for multifunction ovens, a hob top that reflects their needs and a longer warranty. “I have noticed that consumers are very focused on making sensible purchases,” says Danny Lay, sales director at Caple, “so it is important to offer value for money with a product that will be reliable with unparalleled longevity.”

Buying a range cooker is almost a lifestyle statement as much as a statement of how the individual likes to cook, according to Bosch brand manager Ken Humphrey, “There was always an influence from professional kitchens and to recreate the ‘Aga concept’ and I think that for those still in the market for range cookers, this is still what appeals. Perhaps more recently, choice and flexibility – by that I mean cavity configurations, widths, fuel types, colours and finish – have expanded massively to try to make the range cooker idea appeal to as wide an audience as possible.”

Les Wicks, head of product and buying at Beko, argues that consumers will be less inclined to purchase a range cooker as they represent much more of an investment, “That said, range cookers are a statement purchase and as such there are consumers out there who will not be deterred, driven mainly by the finished result rather than price.”

Design trends

Stainless steel still reigns as the most popular choice for range cookers. It makes sense, as it’s hygienic, easy to clean and unlikely to rust. “Industrial steel models are cu
rrently the most popular for customers looking to enhance a contemporary kitchen scheme,” confirms Richard Cristina, product marketing director for Baumatic. “The professional stainless steel design fits in with most modern kitchen furniture and complements existing steel appliances to create a streamlined, co-ordinated look. Owners of traditional kitchens tend to prefer classic enamelled finishes like burgundy, black and cream, even on models with otherwise contemporary styling. Customers associate this contemporary styling with the latest technology and high performance, which is why we offer these designs in the more traditional colours so that customers with country-style kitchens can have the best of both worlds – cutting-edge technology and style in a package that blends in perfectly with their existing décor.”

Keeping up with this year’s trend for monochrome appliances, gloss black and gloss white cookers are set to take 2010 by storm. While this will perfectly complement a contemporary kitchen, many customers want a more traditional look and feel to enhance a classic scheme. This is where cast iron cookers come into their own and you can now create a customised finish with Britannia and Godin’s colour matching service.

Covering all bases is Viking, who has just launched a new streamlined Professional series for a flush, European look alongside the cream coloured Lemonade and Cotton White models.

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