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The laundry market has delivered good news, even in the recession. Customers are replacing their old washers and dryers and manufacturers have made sure that there is plenty of choice to tempt customers to trade up. Anna Ryland reports.

It is apparent that the laundry market is seeing the return of the replacement cycle as the market delivered a healthy growth in 2011.  The overall sales volume was up by 5.3% from January 2011 to December 2011 on the previous year. Sales value also increased by 6.5%, while the average price per unit was £325, up 1.1% on the previous year (source: GfK).

The laundry market is predominantly freestanding, at 96.5% of volume. The washers with 6kg capacity take the largest portion of the market, at almost 40%, but volume is declining and moving towards larger loads. 1200rpm is still the most popular spin speed, but it is declining in favour of higher spin speeds, such as 1400rpm. Freestanding condenser dryers saw steady growth last year, up 11.8% in sales volume and 11.5% in sales value, while the average unit price dropped just 0.3%. Conversely, vented models saw a drop, with volume down 4% and value down 6.2% and prices also down 2.2%. In the built-in market, it was the opposite, as condenser models were down 18.5% in volume, 12.1% in value while vented were up 24.4% in volume and 16.4% in value.

“There are also signs that consumers are starting to trade up in terms of energy efficiency, with the A++  market segment showing impressive growth at +81% (units), compared to a decline in both A+ (-12%) and A (-15.6%),” says Dean McKelvie, Whirlpool’s  product marketing manager, Freestanding.

What customers want

Although distress and replacement purchases still constitute a significant proportion of laundry sales, customers are better informed about product innovations in this sector and are more willing to consider higher priced models which will save them money in the long term.

In general, they are looking for:

•        greater capacity

•        resource efficiencies

•        ease of use

•        good fabric care and

•        additional benefits required by their lifestyle.

Large capacity

“Being able to wash more and less often is a benefit that appeals to most consumers,” argues Dawn Stockell, marketing communications manger – Home Appliances, at LG.

Juliana Sado, Maytag brand marketing manager agrees: “Greater capacity is a feature that the consumer readily buys into and it automatically improves the value of the machine. It means you can wash less, often saving time, energy and money. And of course, not forgetting that a big drum is excellent for keeping those wrinkles at bay, reducing the need to iron too.”

Responding to these expectations, leading manufacturers have added mega-load models to their laundry collections. LG has brought to the market a 12kg ‘6 Motion Direct Drive’ washing machine, Samsung launched a 12kg version of ecobubble and Hoover is to release its 11kg washing machine with Pulse Wash technology in May. Hotpoint is launching a new Aqualtis washer dryer with an 11kg wash load and 7kg dry load. Also Beko, Bosch, Maytag and Whirlpool added 9kg models to their laundry series.

Resource efficient

With relentless rise of utility bills, saving of energy and water has become a priority.  “Consumers are all aware of the long-term benefits of an energy-efficient appliance, and  this is a factor that is high on their list of things to look for in a new washing machine. The use of energy labelling makes it easy for the consumer to identify the best appliance in terms of energy use,” explains  Bill Miller, sales and marketing director, Gorenje.

Top of the range washers such as the AEG Neue Kollektion models and Miele Supertronic W5000 washers have best in class energy rating of A+++(-20%).

The washers of all three BSH brands are equipped in the VarioPerfect technology that gives the users the choice of wash speeds at the highest energy efficiency level. Bosch and Neff washers also have the Activewater management system where the right amount of water is used irrespective of load.

The key benefit of Samsung’s ecobubble machine is the fact that it uses 70% less energy on a standard 40% cotton wash programme – without any loss of cleaning performance, as soap bubbles generated by the machine penetrate deeper and dissolve faster into fabric, meaning that less heat and movement is required to dissolve the detergent.

Convenience

Ease of use – simple programming, intuitive LCD displays, easy iron, delay start (to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates), quick wash as well as half load options – will always be a key requirement for busy customers.

Customer research commissioned by Beko showed that the display on a washing machine is very important. “Consumers want  to be able to see the time remaining on the cycle and other important information, such as spin speed, temperature and time delay. Beko has taken this feedback on board and tailored its offering to satisfy this consumer requirement, with all the models of 6kg/1400 rpm and upwards having such a display,” explains Les Wicks, head of product and buying at  Beko.

“Intelligence in laundry is also a huge benefit to the consumer,” explains Joan Fraser, product development and training manager, Smeg UK. “ Intelligent appliances reduce the margin for consumer error because they are programmed to optimise the performance of a machine. Smeg machines have the automatic variable load function, which assesses the volume of laundry in the load and adjusts the water intake accordingly, so only the optimum amount is used.”

The Samsung ecobubble features Mycycle programme that enables the machine to remember the user’s favourite cycle with customised wash options, so they can run it without having to re-programme the machine before each wash.

Fabric care

Modern laundry has to cater for all washing needs of time-poor consumers. Fast washes and high spins are not suitable for delicate and expensive garments therefore top of the range appliances have drums and programmes that take care of these Ralph Lauren shirts and cashmere jumpers.

Launched in 2011, the 6 Motion technology operating LG washers “is designed to give different washing motions to best care for clothes by using a combination of drum motions to deliver an amazing wash performance coupled with optimum fabric care.  With such a range of garments and fabrics used today, LG’s 6 Motion Technology ensures that everything from jeans to delicates, from woollens to silk come out looking and
feeling their absolute best as well as thoroughly cleaned,” says LG’s Dawn Stockell.

“The OptiSense wash system on AEG L98699FL ProTex PLUS washing machine assesses the size of the load and adjusts amount of water, energy and time so clothes are not over-washed, and, in combination with specially patterned ProTex drum design, delivers the gentlest wash possible,” says Chandra Kunche, AEG’s product manager, Fabric Care.

Hotpoint Aqualtis incorporates Hydro Thermal technology in the Colourcare cycle that keeps colours strong and whites bright. It also has a delicates cycle and Woolmark Platinium wool cycle.

On the Whirlpool laundry appliances colour preservation and fabric care is delivered by a combination of the Wave Motion technology –  asymmetrical drum movement that distributes fabrics thoroughly around the drum – and  the Colours 15ºC option.  “The Colours 15ºC option works in concert with the 6th Sense Colours programmes, which are adapted to different colour choices. The Dark Colours programme protects black and dark items from fading. The Light Colours programme washes light colours with no colour transfer,” explains Dean McKelvie,  Whirlpool product marketing manager, Freestanding.

Hygiene

With 30% the UK population suffering from one or more types of allergy sometime in their lives, anti-allergy programmes are becoming more common on laundry appliances. For example Hotpoint Aqualtis has an anti-allergy programme, approved by Allergy UK, which uses high heat and extra rinses to remove all major allergens. The V-Zug Adora washing machine has a unique Anti-Mite setting eliminating mites from bedclothes.

Meanwhile Haier’s latest 86 and 82 laundry series are equipped in a new anti-bacterial treatment, which prevents the build-up of three types of the most common bacteria in the gasket and dispenser drawer. Amica’s MaxiControl washing machines have a Self-Clean cycle that not only extends the life span of the appliance but it also makes it more hygienic for the users. “Everyday low temperature washing can be effective and is, of course, more environmentally friendly but it can cause a build-up of bacteria, mould, dirt and odours in the drum and tank, which can shorten the lifetime of any machine,” points out Simon Freear, UK country manager of Amica.

Gorenje’s SterilTub function plays a similar role. A number of Baumatic freestanding washers also have a self-cleaning programme.

The looks

In the predominantly freestanding laundry market, the design of the appliances is important and manufacturers are working very hard to differentiate their offerings from the sea of white on the sales floor.

“Black with stainless steel trim or chrome finishes remains popular but people are also starting to choose bold block colours, such as red, and contrasting them with black worktops or white high gloss kitchen cabinetry.  Integrated washing machines remain popular with those looking to create a discreet streamline look,” comments Steve Dickson, commercial manager for Belling.

The new Beko red collection, available exclusively through rent-to-buy retailer, Brighthouse, includes a washing machine and tumble dryer with a metallic red finish.

Whetting the appetite

Laundry appliances are not purchased regularly. Most likely your customer’s last appliance differs significantly from the current models. It’s important to tell and show them how much laundry has changed since their last purchase.

For example, 90% of consumers do not use the right amount of detergent when doing their laundry. The overdosing produces excessive foam that results in additional rinsing cycles and a disproportionate increase in water consumption. This problem is eliminated by the Siemens i-Dos dosing system that uses sensors that automatically register both the amount of laundry and the different types of fabric. Also Miele Supertronic washing machine has the AutoDos system which delivers the correct amount of liquid and power detergent of each load.

The Miele washing machine also uses VarioSteam technology to customise the application of steam and drum speed to the type of textile or programme, reducing the need for ironing by up to 50%. V-Zug Adora washer has a Steam Anti-Crease programme to reduce unnecessary ironing.

Meanwhile the AEG ProTex washing machine has a range of steam settings that includes a 30-minute de-wrinkling programme and a 20-minute refresh programme for removing the day’s odours. Caple’s tumble dryers have a ‘DeCrease’ system which uses steam function to get rid of creases altogether.

And even stains can be removed without hand washing. Panasonic’s X series of washing machines is equipped with the StainMaster technology providing 23 stain treatments. Miele Supertronic washer also has 22 pre-programmed stain cycles for stubborn marks like grass, red wine, coffee and make-up.

Making customers aware of these benefits is one step towards convincing them that investing in that higher-specified model can make their lives easier.

Home laundry market

2011 was a successful year for the washing machine market, as value increased by more than £50m over the 12-month period. Sales were boosted by the big capacity sector with the larger wash cycles helping to make the menial chore of washing clothes less time consuming and demanding.

Similar growth was seen in the tumble dryer category as large capacity models were again a prominent feature. However it was condenser dryers that were the real winners, now accounting for 60% of total value sales.

By Betty Fieve, GfK account manager betty.fieve@gfk.com, www.gfkrt.com/uk

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