Hitting the mainstream

04 Apr, 17

Showers which boast spa-like properties are now a standard fixture for any consumers’ bathroom

The influence of the boutique hotel has been widely recognised in the creation of the ‘dream’ bathroom for consumers, enabling them to take the same bathing experience home. But, such has been the demand for these spa-like environments; it’s now a must-have requirement of all showering design. Marketing manager of VitrA UK, Margaret Talbot points out: “The demand to emulate the same feeling in the comfort of one’s own home has become standard protocol in bathroom design.”  And industry experts suggest spa-like showers could account for up to a fifth of all sales. Marketing director of Triton Tina Simpson comments: “I would suggest that 15-20% of the market is based on sales of spa-like showers, however there is no official data on this.”

But what truly makes for a shower which can recreate a spa-like sensation? Although, there is no real definition most industry experts would suggest it is the overall experience a shower delivers, together with a balance of looks and high levels of performance. UK sales director of the Sanipex Group Richard Nicholls notes: “A spa-like shower is any product that leaves the user feeling refreshed, rejuventated and replenished – basically as if they have just left the spa.” Whereas, sales and marketing director of Frontline Bathrooms Michael Sammon takes a more product-focused view when he suggests: “I would class a spa-like shower as a shower that makes your bathing experience a step above the norm. A spa-like shower should offer something luxurious, so larger shower heads that provide greater coverage, or heads that can offer a waterfall option as well would fall within this category.”

Drench still tops

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Of course, still topping the bill for looks, performance and experience is the ceiling-mounted overhead – and here bigger is most definitely better. Marketing director of Triton Tina Simpson agrees: “Consumers place a great deal of emphasis on the size of the shower head and consider larger options with more functions akin to a spa-style shower.” And her view is mirrored by the head of marketing at Roca Group (UK) Georgina Spencer. “Size is important, with large overhead and deluge showerheads being particularly spa-like. Ceiling-mounted deluge showers are among our most popular options as they offer the biggest impact in terms of overall showering experience, as well as visually”. And Helen Shaw, marketing manager for Roper Rhodes agrees with them both: “Drench showerheads remain popular with consumers looking to create a spa-like showering experience. Large, 300mm showerheads, which can be ceiling mounted for a dramatic effect are perfect for this as they create a cascading rain shower effect.”

However there remains a strong debate over the reliance on the drench head for a spa-like shower. As head of channel marketing for trade at Hansgrohe, Sarah Evans states: “All elements are important in the design of a spa-like shower, but the way the water is delivered is paramount to providing a truly individual experience.”

Growth in dual

In fact, the drench head does not offer the most versatility when it comes to showering.  “Whilst a deluge fixed shower head undoubtedly creates the most drenching effect, homeowners are now considering the practical elements to immovable showering. As such, the market is seeing a balance of different showerheads and dual designs for optimum results”, says sales director of Perrin & Rowe David Cole. And experts seem to agree, the versatility provided by the sprays of dual head showers can offer a wider variety of choices to a broader church of consumers. “Dual head showers do offer a spa-like experience, thanks to the choice of water flow from two separate outlets. Dual head showers also play an important role in catering for the entire family. Methven research suggests that males prefer the drenching overhead whilst the females prefer the forward facing handset.” However, the dual shower has the added benefit

Such is the popularity of the dual head, and as we reported last year, they continue to be fastest-growing shower for many manufacturers. Certainly, Sarah Evans of Hansgrohe says this is reflected in her company’s sales: “Showerpipes are our fastest-growing type of showers and fit the bill in terms of creating a spa-like shower. Comprising an overhead shower and an adjustable hand shower in a single product, showerpipes are great all-rounders as they offer ‘his’ and ‘her’ choice.” In fact, such is the requirement for dual head showers; this will form the latest launch from Methven, as product manager Barbara Osborne reports: “We are responding to this growing demand by launching an extension to our award-winning Aio range, with a shower system which offers both an overhead and handset.”

Slim is in

Where the two shower types do merge is in the styling, and here minimalism is still key for controls as well as the construction of slim showerheads. “Overhead showers, handshower and thermostatic controls with a slim-line design and contemporary style fit with the trend for open wetroom-style shower areas where the shower and controls are very much on show.” And Richard Nicholls of the Sanipex Group concurs: “Showers, certainly at the top-end of the market, are now sleeker than ever, with concealed controls and super-think profiles on columns and risers. By contrast shower heads are getting bigger, being chosen as statement pieces in the contemporary bathroom.”

And helping make that statement the shape of the showerhead is changing too. While the most popular models of last year were reported as circular, there has been a growth in alternative designs. Grohe UK training manager Michael Gray explains: “Within the shower area, a square design head shower is becoming more popular and can add an on-trend look to the room. Lozenge-shaped shower heads are another great option and area designed with the human body in mind. The lozenge shape mirrors an individual, shoulder to shoulder, to provide optimum coverage of water, for user satisfaction and add a modern twist to a bathroom space.”

Assault the senses

But, of course, spa-like showers can go much further than delivering water in a variety of patterns and through various spray heads. They can assault all the senses with added functionality aromatherapy, chromotherapy and even the ability to play music using Bluetooth. Many of these are controlled, digitally, even by remote. Yet digital showering has been in the market for some time and yet still has some way to go to hit the mainstream. It seemingly needs to gain more traction if it is to be considered anything other than a niche market.  Tina Simpson of Triton exclaims: “There are a lot more wireless models available, moving the category forward. As digital showers become more accessible and designs are more fashion-orientated demand will continue to grow, as such the market will develop rapidly, albeit from a relatively small base.”

Divided digital opinion

But, interestingly, here is where experts are divided in their opinion of how the spa-like shower will develop. On one hand, experts suggest digital will play a larger role and there are even suggestions the bathroom will become part of the connected home. While there is an equal but opposing view that digital will be firmly locked outside the bathroom door.

A recent report by MTW suggested digitalisation of the home, including the Internet of Things was a growth opportunity for the bathroom market. And Carlisle-based retailer Andrew Crellen of The Bathroom Shop agrees: “As homeowners become more and more interested in smart technology, retailers can’t escape the growing demand for a connected bathroom. As more smart devices and high tech applications become available, so do new capabilities which are fast becoming the central nervous system of a connected home – including the bathroom. This means retailers and designers should turn their focus to smart technology as a way to boost and entice their customers when buying a new shower.”

But the role of digital in the furthering of the spa-like shower movement does not hold with David Cole of Perrin & Rowe, he exclaims: “Consumers are beginning to realise that details are vitally important to the overall look of the space, and that doesn’t have to come from digital features. Beautifully designed and crafted brassware which emulate a boutique hotel spa has now become a well-considered investment.”

Nor is Sarah Evans of Hansgrohe convinced about the future role of digital in shaping shower design and accompanying sales. In fact she believes: “Simplicity will become the watchword for the future of bathrooms – an oasis where we can retreat from everyday communication devices and electronics to a space that is calming, neutral and in tune with our elemental needs. Manufacturers are coming back to what consumers really want – which is intuitive technology to make life easier and more comfortable, rather than gimmicks that require taking the instruction manual with you into the bathroom.” And Georgina Spencer of Roca UK agrees adding “ease of use is particularly important in this market, particularly with hydromassage columns where consumers are easily put off by the sight of too many controls.”

Although the future design of the shower may seemingly be in the balance, whether to relax or invigorate the spirt and body, the ability for the shower to transform the bather will remain a certainty.