Wash and go

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In general, the market for January to December 2008 was down when compared to the same period for 2007. Washing machines were down 2.6% in value and 3.7% in volume. Tumble dryers were down 1.8% in value and 4.0% in volume. This may have been in part due to the increase in price points, with the average washing machine retailing for £292.40 against £289.12 the previous year, an increase of 1.1%. Tumble dryers were up considerably more, £197.07 against £192.60 the previous year – an increase of 2.3% per unit (source: GfK).

Market trends

When it comes to driving decisions it seems that size matters, as consumers are looking for large capacity models. “The market trend has seen a focus on capacity,” confirms Whirlpool’s group brand marketing manager Ray Isted, “with 6kg the main size purchased. A 5kg capacity is still a large segment but is declining and is down 40% year-on-year. However, 7kg is rapidly gaining presence with 19% of the market and a growth of 63% year-on-year, while 8kg capacity and over is taking off.  The consumer attraction for capacity lies in washing larger loads less often, which saves time as well as automatically generating energy and detergent savings.”

Mike Martin, head of product at Maytag and Amana UK, says: “At the top end of the market, the trend is for fully automatic electronically controlled washing machines and tumble dryers, and not having to worry about selecting the most economical programme for the load, bringing greater added value for the retailer and the consumer alike, especially when combined with capacity.”

There has been a significant shift towards condenser tumble dryers over vented models in recent years and as sensor drying becomes more widely available, this will have a huge impact on the market. “Low cost vented tumble dryers are still good sellers,” says Gorenje UK’s sales director Bill Miller, “as they are often placed in garages or utility rooms.  As the market develops, customers will be more demanding and will look towards better quality appliances that can also sit in kitchens or enclosed spaces.  This should mean that condenser dryers will become more popular.”

Tumble dryers are also getting bigger, with 7kg and 8kg models designed to match the washing machines. Energy ratings are also getting better, as more brands offer an A or B rated dryer, although a C rated model is still perfectly acceptable. This is in response to consumers becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to eco issues so products with water and energy efficient features should continue to sell well.

Freestanding remains a popular choice as it gives more freedom when it comes to positioning the appliance while fully integrated models are ideal for customers looking to conceal their appliances from view.

What’s new?

There’s plenty of new product coming onto the market in 2009, which should give the independent retailer the perfect opportunity to refresh their range.

Whirlpool is launching a new AquaSteam 9kg washing machine with touch sensor control in May, along with next generation 6th Sense technology with improved accuracy and a Speed 15 programme to wash a 3kg load of lightly soiled items in just 15 minutes.

Miele is introducing the W5000 series, which is set to incorporate many innovative features, as Stefan Pichetta, product manager for laundry, explains: “One of these features is the Intensive Plus programme, which caters for heavily soiled items like rugby tops. It automatically pre-washes the clothes, extends the main wash and increases the temperature to remove tough and persistent dirt. Our top of the range model, takes this one step further with the most intelligent stain removal system available. It offers 22 different stain types including chocolate, red wine, lipstick and mud. Up to three of these stain types can be selected simultaneously with most wash programmes. The LCD display on these machines will also uniquely offer stain removal hints and tips for improved results.” Additional highlights include an extra quiet cycle and self-cleaning detergent drawer along with the T8000 tumble dryer range, which includes the A-rated T8626WP EcoComfort model, which uses up to 46% less energy.

Joan Fraser, National sales support for Smeg UK, says that the latest Smeg washing machines include an Enzyme Phase and Eco System, which help consumers get the most from their detergents while tackling tough stains.  “Smeg washing machines also offer a new 30°C Quickwash or Daily 30°C programme,” she explains, “which is suitable for mixed materials up to a maximum of 2.5kg of dry clothes.”

There’s also been some changes at GDHA as Steve Dickson, marketing manager for Stoves, explains, “All Stoves integrated washers and washer dryers now feature fuzzy logic, using sensor technology to monitor varying conditions inside the machine, then automatically adjusting itself to maximise wash results using as little energy and water as possible – making them very eco friendly.”

De Dietrich has introduced the extremely efficient DWF814 with ICS (Intelligent Control System) technology while the latest Logixx 8 washing machine from Bosch features pre-programmed stain removal to deal with 16 of the most common stain problems.

Polish brand Amica has made major progress here in the UK thanks to its stylish designs and energy efficient features.  Simon Freear, country manager for Amica in the UK, comments: “Amica’s AWCT12L washing machine, along with its sister, the AWCT10L, incorporates a delicates cycle, which doesn’t heat the water at all. It simply uses water directly from the cold feed as it comes, therefore no temperature selection is required and no heating energy is used.”

Electrolux continues to satisfy different sectors of the market with the AEG-Electrolux Prosteam and Zanussi’s Jetsystem+, while Siemens introduced in 2008 its first pair of black laundry appliances with the WM14S79BUK automatic washing machine and WT46S59BUK condenser tumble dryer.

Special features

Consumers today are mostly looking for durability and reliability if they are to part with their hard-earned cash. Ray Isted, group brand marketing manager for Whirlpool, says that this can have benefits for the independent retailer: “Customers want appliances to last and to move through the family life stages. So point out brands that have features that will cater for the baby stage where sanitisation will appeal to mums; while in a teenage household they will want to wash their own special garments so memory programmes are ideal for perfect results every time. Show the convenience of loading and unloading through large porthole doors and don’t forget the benefit of spin speed is highly significant for consumers with the direct relationship to speedier and more economical tumble drying.”

Additional features to flag up include lifestyle programmes to suit customers’ needs such as quick wash, sportswear and sensitive cycles together with easy iron options, delay start to take advantage of cheaper electricity tariffs and a low decibel rating, especially if the customer is to position the appliance in an open plan kitchen.  Jane Rylands, marketing manager for Belling, confirms: “Open plan living has meant that noise is something that consumers are increasingly aware of.  More homes have laundry appliances sited close to living areas than in the past, meaning noise is less tolerable. Independents should therefore ensure that they point out noise levels to their customers to encourage sales.”

Design details

According to Jane Massey, brand manager for Siemens, black is definitely back. “We anticipate this colour will remain popular for at least another year,” she says. “Trends are currently being monitored but a very strong interest in colours is now evident to transform boring and mundane househol
d appliances.”

“The focus for laundry appliances used to be function over form,” adds Dan Greenall, marketing manager for New World, “but open plan living has meant that people either want appliances that are perfectly integrated and therefore invisible, or sleek and attractive focal points.  Black with chrome and stainless steel accents has started to become more visible as well as pastel shades.”

When it comes to function, customers are attracted to appliances with sleek touch controls, angled fascias and flush fit doors. For integrated laundry, it’s all about clear functional design with LCD control panels and a clean white finish.

Sales Tips

  • Ask customers about their lifestyle and establish their typical laundry routine. Offering solutions to suit them, such as quick wash or allergy cycles, is more effective than listing all the functions.
  • Discuss how eco programmes and low energy and water consumption can reduce energy bills in the long term.
  • Establish where the appliance will be located. Noise levels are becoming one of the top concerns of customers, especially for those with small houses or open plan kitchens.
  • Targeting local press is important for the independent retailer, as you can steer customers away from the sheds and towards supporting local businesses.
  • Offer a range of appliances that incorporate new styles, features, technologies and price points to appeal to the widest market.
  • Install live displays where you can demonstrate the latest electronic technology, such as short programmes, noise levels and LCD display.

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