On reflection

05 Apr, 17

Philippa Turrell says ‘tricked out’ mirrors and mirror cabinets will provide more opportunities for sales

With so many decisions needed to be taken when planning a bathroom, consumers could be forgiven for not putting mirrors or mirrored cabinets at the top of the wish list. However, designers shouldn’t be so easily exonerated, particularly when Theo Schmidt of Schneider UK points out: “The market for illuminated mirrors and cabinets will continue to grow overall in 2016 by about 5% to 10%.” Put quite simply, all bathrooms need a mirror or mirrored cabinet. Not only visually aesthetic, they provide a much needed functional role, from providing a reflection of the user to offering an additional light source and refracting light to  make a traditionally small room appear larger. But are bathroom retailers doing enough to capitalise on these sales?

Serious about sales

Marketing manager of VitrA, Margaret Talbot says these mirror and mirrored cabinet should be taken far more seriously, as part of the initial design. She explains: “Selecting the correct accessories is hugely important and there is a need to complement the overall bathroom design. Mirrors, and cabinets in particular, are large items and of course are very visual as they are obviously positioned at head height. So it’s essential that the right product is selected for each individual bathroom.” She adds: “Importantly, if bathroom retailers/designers embrace the necessity to plan for mirrors and cabinets from the very outset of a project, they are likely to add value and potentially increase profilt by squeezing a little more budget out of their clients.”

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Split decision

As we reported, last year, the overall trend for mirrors and mirrored cabinets remains the same, with experts suggesting the cabinet is a popular choice for mid-market bathrooms, while premium projects tend to include mirrors. Sales director of Bathroom Origins Sofia Charalambous comments: “I agree with the experts suggesting that the mirror is the most popular for top-end bathrooms, while for a mid-priced, family bathroom, the mirror cabinet is.” UK sales director of the Sanipex Group Richard Nichols attributes this division to the demand for a boutique hotel look in luxury projects: “The trend in terms of style at the top end leans towards large mirrors, much like those you would find in a hotel or spa-like environment.”

However, Charalambous suggest a lack of room for storage in smaller bathrooms may be responsible for this clear division: “This is probably due to top-end bathrooms having ample storage under the basin or to the side in which case a cabinet may not be required.” And marketing manager for Utopia Bathroom Sam Ball agrees, adding the mirrored cabinet can be particularly beneficial for families with small children: “It makes sense to opt for a mirror cabinet that not adds extra storage space but also ensures pills and potions are both out of sight and out of reach of small hands.”

However, if the question is posed which is faring better in sales for suppliers who offer both mirrors and mirrored cabinets, Sam Ball of Utopia says: “It’s hard to say whether mirrors or mirrored cabinets perform better for us, although the new higher specified mirrors in our range are certainly selling well.” And Sofia Charalambous says expectations of mirror sales for her company are high: “Sales of our bathroom mirrors are set to double from 2015.”

Wider view

So what are the discerning trends driving mirrors and mirrored cabinet sales in 2016? Experts say the sheer size of the products is a growing influence, as consumers are looking for wider options. Schmidt of Schneider comments: “The request to supply bathroom mirror cabinets in larger widths is growing. In the past, the cabinets requested had a width of 600, 700 and 900mm. Today customers request cabinets up to a width of 1300 to 1500mm.” And his view is reiterated by Sofia Charalambous who explains why: “Our fastest-growing mirrors are models which are over one metre wide. This is because of the trend for wider basins measuring over a metre long or two basins side-by-side.”

Added functionality

But it’s not just the size of mirrors or mirrored cabinets which is significant, it’s the added functionality which continues to be important as part of the sale.  These are no longer simply a piece of glass, but are now expected to include lighting and steam-free surfaces as standard. Product designer at Roper Rhodes Trevor Brinkiman agrees: “Nowadays many mirrors also boast built-in heated demister pads to ensure the glass remains steam free, regardless of how hot and humid the bathroom gets.” However, Sam Ball of Utopia suggests the standard specification is longer than steam-free pads: “Must-have features for mirrors include LED lighting, demister pads – so useful in compact rooms where steam is a problem – and shaver sockets which also accommodate electric toothbrushes.”

And while this arguably has been easier to incorporate into mirrors, the technology gap is narrowing between these and cabinets  as Sam Ball adds: “We offered added spec mirrors with popular features such as demisters, magnification and sensors. At the moment, we only offer these advanced features on mirrors but already we are considering transferring the technology to our mirror cabinets, including our popular sliding mirror cabinet.”

Trade up tech

While lighting and electrics now almost considered standard specification, to trade up in mirror and mirrored cabinet sales designers and retailers need to consider more ‘tricked up’ tech. Richard Nicholls of the Sanipex Group agrees: “Technology is becoming an integral part of the bathroom’s design, particularly at the higher end of the market. We’re not just talking about integrated lighting and electrical sockets here either; consumers are looking for all-out gadgetry including the latest integrated HD TVs and surround sound systems.” And Trevor Brinkiman points to the importance of AV in his company’s mirrors and mirrored cabinets, commenting: “Many of our mirrors and mirrored cabinets feature fully-integrated digital displays with touch-sensitive controls and wireless Bluetooth technology with an integrated stereo speaker control so that users can listen to the radio or music from their smartphone or tablet while brushing their teeth or washing their face.”

In fact, such is the importance of connectivity, it is forming a major role in new product development for Utopia. Sam Ball explains: “We are actively exploring new product options in our ongoing product development programme and, in particular, experimenting with adding popular new features to our mirror cabinets. It seems we can’t now be without access to our music, phones and iPads for a second, so new product development will focus on these areas.” And Schmidt of Schneider puts it quite bluntly “The message is clear. The bathroom mirror cabinet will get more and more built-in technologies which are appreciated by the customer.”

Suited for showrooms

But best of all, the inclusion of AV into mirror or mirrored cabinet design, falls into the hands of bathroom showroom sales, as consumers need to experience the clarity of the sound or image. And, of course, the best way for consumers to experience the difference is for retailers to put a hi-tech bathroom mirror or mirrored cabinet on display. Richard Nichols implores: “Retailers need to be proactive in their approach to these sales, particularly as consumers have a great deal of choice over where they purchase a mirror retrospectively. That’s why it is important that mirrors form part of your showroom display.

Certainly the market for mirrored cabinets, and in particularly mirrors, is only likely to grow, especially as the latter extends from the confines of the bathroom into the bedroom and living spaces. So look to wider options in mirror and mirrored cabinet design and the latest technology to maximise sales, as on reflection these could be a bonus for your business.