Flow of traffic

02 Aug, 13

Despite mixer showers being a mature market, Kitchens & Bathrooms News finds it is still a huge and profitable sector for retail

Busy lifestyles have spurred the growth of showers as consumers, quite literally, want to ‘wash and go’. There’s no luxurious soaking in the tub for those who are time-poor. So, it’s no surprise “around 88% of all UK households have some sort of shower installation”, according to AMA Research. While showers may be considered standard in newbuild home specification, it’s the refurbishment market  contributing to high penetration levels. However, the demand for additional bathroom facilities may also be borne out of need. The tough economy is not only forcing  adult children to return to the nest but may also see elderly relatives sharing homes with their families – creating multigenerational homes. Mark Walker, UK sales director for Bagno Design, explains: “More and more homeowners are adding second and even third bathrooms on to their properties as their families expand and they look to add value. Each one of these additional bathrooms is likely to be in need of a mixer shower of some description, so the opportunities for retailers in this regard is enormous.”



Since showering can save water, as opposed to baths, it neatly fits the continuing move towards water efficiency. Government legislation such as Part G of the Building Regulations and introductions such as the Water Label are also thought to have contributed to steady sales. And with a third of UK homes now on a water meter, according to Mira, the ‘green’ effect looks to be a continuing driver for shower sales.Sarah Holey, marketing communications manager at Laufen UK, expresses: “Water saving is becoming more of a consideration for homeowners as they look to live a ‘greener’ lifestyle and cut the cost of living by reducing utility bills. Therefore shower mixers with built-in, water-saving features are worth highlighting to customers.”

Sponsored Video



But currently, it is performance and the ability of the shower to provide multi-functions that seem to be the key purchasing factors. Mark Walker of Bagno Design, adds: “Customers want to be able to control the shower easily and change from a massaging spray to one that is relaxing at the touch of a button or turn of a knob.”

However, the demand for multi-functions is arguably best seen in the growing popularity of the dual outlet showers, giving consumers the choice of a handset or large overhead. Martin Mongan, managing director of Hansgrohe, explains: “Shower pipes are our fastest-growing type of shower family. Comprising an overhead shower and an adjustable hand shower in a single product, shower pipes are great all-rounders as they offer ‘his and her’ choice. We know from research that men often prefer an overhead shower and women a handshower.”



And it seems, when it comes down to it, there is very little differentiation between the trends at the top and the lower ends of the market. Some industry experts suggest the top end might be inclined to opt for digital (See Expert View) or concealed options, while consumers at the mid-market or entry level perhaps choose exposed models. But ultimately, everyone wants the same from their shower.

Janet White, marketing communications manager for Aqualisa, explains: “Everyone wants a shower that is easy on the eye, easy to install, easy to use and that delivers a fantastic showering experience. Where you might see a difference is in the level of options. For example, an entry-level digital shower might not offer digital diverter technology. You might not be able to program your particular temperature and flow preference and perhaps you won’t be able to choose from ten different showerheads. But the fundamental functionality and showering experience boxes stay ticked.”

 So how do you encourage consumers to trade up when this “fundamental functionality” is the same across all levels? The retailer and designer’s product knowledge will be vital here, along with working displays. Martin Mongan of Hansgrohe, explains: “As always with bathrooms, displays are crucial and working displays even better. You turn bathroom fittings on and off, and hold them in your hand thousands of times during the lifetime of a bathroom, so customers need to touch and feel to appreciate that quality is really worth the investment.”

But specifically finding out what functions and experience the consumer wants from their shower, could help designers and retailers encourage an upgrade to a higher priced shower by explaining the benefits. Helen Clark, marketing manager of Abode, says: “Designers and retailers should find out what the consumer is looking for first of all, what is their daily routine, what functions do they think they would like. Then look at the options which can add value, additional handshower sets, body jets, multi-function showerheads with several features – the list is endless.”



Whether it is improved flow rates, or enhanced digital controls that encourages a consumer to buy a more expensive model, this market has huge potential. AMA Research suggests: “By /2017, the overall [shower equipment] market value is forecast to be £490 million at manufacturers selling price, which would represent an increase of around 15%, compared to the estimated market size in /2013.”

Plus, technology is advancing quickly and showering is becoming more and more sophisticated (see Expert View). It seems the mixer showers future will be driven not only by digital technology but also by the spa trend. Roger Crabb, marketing manager of Mira Showers, says: “Digital technology will allow the integration of the users’ music from smart phones and mp3 players.” And Sarah Holey of Laufen adds: “The trend for wet-room style, spa-like showers continues to grow apace and this will have a major influence over the design of the mixer shower itself.” So it is onwards and upwards for this market and is certainly one to keep a very close eye on.

The full article appears in the September /2013 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News