All hands on deck

09 May, 17

Slim and large scale formats continue to dominate the shower tray market but now added value such as colours and textures are coming to the fore

Although the wetroom may be a coveted look, floor formers have yet to challenge the dominance of the shower tray in bathroom sales. Creating watertight flooring with a sufficient gradient for drainage is often a step too far for plumbers, as a more difficult installation not only requires specialist knowledge but could add time pressures to a bathroom fit. Managing director of Roman David Osborne comments: “Plumbers still shy away from formers and prefer to stick with installing straight forward shower trays.” And managing director of Dallmer John Purser agrees, citing a shortage in skills is the reason why installers will opt for shower trays over floor formers. It is perhaps the reason why managing director of Roman David Osborne reports: “Shower tray volumes are steadily growing.”

Slim pickings

However, the shower tray has continually been developed to meet the trend for wetrooms with increasingly slim profiles. Of course, the low profile shower tray is nothing new, as JT launched its JT Fusion (then titled JT40) 10 years’ ago. Although it remains the company’s most popular tray, it has more recently been joined by a 25mm depth model. And sales and marketing director for JT John Schofield reports the even slimmer model has already found favour. He comments: “Last year we launched Evolved by JT, a design-led 25mm tray, and in the last six months we have seen significant take up from distributors and retailers alike. We are starting to see a migration from a standard low profile tray to a more design-led option, especially within the middle to high-end of the retail sector.” And the move to slimmer trays has also been witnessed by Merlyn Showers, as marketing manager of the company Edel Nicholson points out: “The Ultra Slim (30mm) is the fastest growing model. Our bestselling trays are slimmer than they were even three years ago.”

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Big ideas

But it’s not simply the reduced depth of trays that has seen the tray better reflect the wetroom, a move towards larger trays sizes has also ensured they mirror the minimal showering environment. David Osborne says demand for larger shower trays is reflected in his company’s sales: “The most popular size of trays are all larger rectangles 1200 x900mm.” And country manager of Bette UK Samantha Wake agrees larger shower trays are making their mark, stating: “Our 25mm and 35mm deep BetteShower trays in steel enamel in 1400 x 800mm and 1400 x 900mm are our most popular shower trays.” And since the tray is now taking a bigger expanse of the floor, it demands more attention in the overall bathroom scheme. John Schofield of JT states: “As the desire for larger showers continues, it is the shower area (and as a result the tray) that is a key focus for the consumer.”

Such has been the demand for large scale, slimline trays, it has opened the doors to the development of the shower floor. In fact, Samantha Wake of Bette UK reports its BetteFloor flush-to-floor shower area is the company’s fastest growing model. And now Geberit has joined suppliers who offer shower surfaces with its Setaplano shower surface. According to vice president of Western Europe at Kaldewei Angela Ortmann-Torbett, they are within greater reach of consumers. She reports: “The introduction of Scona by Kaldewei in 2014 made the wetroom shower-look accessible to more customers, by offering a completely flat-looking, enamelled steel shower surface at a more affordable price point.”  

Adding value

With the shower surface or large-scale, slim tray, taking more space in the bathroom, it naturally means a greater focus is now paid to the choice, and this moves this showering product beyond the confines of commodity. And this is further demonstrated by an increasing choice of materials, colours, textures and addition of anti-slip, which all add value to the shower tray, allowing for natural trade-up opportunities. Edel Nicholson of Merlyn comments: “It is important for trays to be a feature of the bathroom and shower enclosure; by introducing new textures, finishes, colours and even branded waste covers we can ensure that trays are an important design choice for consumers.” And John Schofield agrees (See Expert View below), adding: “The key challenge for manufacturers is to design and develop a product that adds a genuine impact/benefit to consumers, whilst delivering value for the retailer. This isn’t about gimmicks and fads, but delivering retailers the ability to sell something a consumer desires and that will deliver.”

Anti-slip arsenal

It’s perhaps no surprise that anti-slip has become a weapon in the arsenal of the bathroom retailer and designer, as it offers added security and peace of mind for older people, and those with young families alike. Such has been the interest in the added value anti-slip, which is now almost imperceptible; Roman has recently added anti-slip to its range of solid surface trays. Samantha Wake of Bette UK points out: “There has been a big increase in the selection of anti-slip surfaces, now that an almost invisible anti-slip is available.” And Angela Ortmann-Torbett agrees, as she states: “We will see a growth of Kaldewei floor-level steel enamel shower surfaces with anti-slip finish.” In fact, showering experts believe anti-slip will continue to be a dominant factor in future shower tray research and development.

Natural colours

But while anti-slip provides functionality, the tray has also been subject to interior fashions. The trend towards marble in interiors has spurred the growth of solid surface trays which replicate the natural material. Solid surface specialist Gemma Stockberger of Versital comments: “This is why we are seeing a trend towards marble, or more specifically ‘faux’marble. Versital’s true-to-life marble surfaces meet this trend as not only are they extremely durable and stain resistant, they are also non-porous.” While enamelled steel shower floor and tray manufacturers report colours to match natural flooring are key for sales. Kaldewei offers 12 matt colours, such as Lava Black and Woodberry Brown, to match their shower floor with surrounding floor tiles. And Samantha Wake of Bette UK comments, this has been one of the greatest developments at Bette UK, explaining: “One of the biggest changes in the last few years has been the increase in the selection of Bette shower trays in colours to match flooring. More customers are now choosing shower trays in colours to match wooden, stone or tile flooring with 40% of Bette customers choosing a matt finish.” 

Strong sales

With consumers seeking to add value to their homes with second or even third bathroom facilities, which often include a shower, the demand for shower trays and floors shows no sign of abating. John Schofield further comments: “Tray growth continues to expand and outstrip the market. More people are replacing the bath than ever to reflect modern day lifestyles and this is also the case for the higher end of the age spectrum.” And as the UK housing market continues to expand, with consumers seeking new properties, this will also continue to stimulate bathroom sales.

Alongside this, of course, shower tray design will continue to develop to meet consumer trends. Whether manufacturers look to simplify installation, find new materials, offer enhanced anti-slip or change construction methods to cater for ever more sophisticated drainage, trays will not only remain relevant but sales will be strong.


It’s a debate that will always exist in any industry, particularly in the bathroom business. It’s a challenging time for all us manufacturers, as raw material prices are continuing the rise, competition is strong and Brexit is on the horizon. So, getting our price right is tough but is it everything? Absolutely not! The industry has so much to offer and simply can’t be driven by price. Not every customer is driven by this so as an industry we need to take a step back and think about what drives our consumer to purchase our products – quality, innovation, style, design, heritage, craftsmanship, colours etc.

The fact that the shower is a central part of the bathroom means that the options of colours, the different sizes, the different materials and extra benefits such as anti-slip mean the retailer has a number of options to ensure the customer gets the product that is right for their bathroom – at a range of prices.

We have all seen shower trays from a physical perspective continue to be thinner and it is this sleek design look that the consumer wants. However, as the desire for larger showers continues, it is the shower area (and as a result the tray) that is a key focus for the consumer.

We’re a proud industry and the price wars will always be a part of it. But with the market in the shape it’s in, from our perspective, our quality trays, our brand and heritage in British manufacturing will always be the selling point for JT.