Air your laundry in public

17 Apr, 15

High street kitchen showrooms can profit from investing in laundry sales

While laundry appliance sales have remained steady over the past year, in terms of volume, washing machine and tumble dryers have seen an increase in value. It means consumers are now looking for higher specification, and therefore more expensive laundry appliances. According to Joe Oram, head of Product Line, Laundry & Home Comfort, Electrolux Major Appliances, UK & IE of Electrolux: “Total laundry volume was 3.6million units in 2014. This has declined by 3.3% in volume since 2011, but last year was -0.3%” Oram adds: “Total laundry value was £1,137.4million. This has increased by 1.8% in value since 2011, but the last year was 0.8% year-on-year.”  Interestingly, however, kitchen showrooms haven’t been the traditional route for laundry sales, with electrical retailers taking the vast majority of sales. But with consumers looking for more premium washing machines and dryers, it could offer a valuable sales opportunity for high street showrooms. Laundry category manager of Miele, Sian Bailey comments: “Approximately 5% of our laundry sales are through kitchen showrooms.” While,  Fisher & Paykel offers a larger, albeit still fairly small share through kitchen showrooms, as Helen Haider comments: “Currently we are seeing display deals in both electrical independents and kitchen studios, about 70:30 ratio, but there is increased interest from kitchen studios with the trend towards separate premium product laundry rooms, as per the rest of Europe.

Bigger remains better

In the premium laundry segment, a key sales driver is capacity, as the ability to wash more in fewer loads means less time is spent on household chores. While the 7kg capacity washing machine accounts for the largest proportion of sales, appliances which offer more than 8kg continue to be the fastest-growing appliances. Laundry product manager at Grundig, Laura Selten comments: “Last year, there was a significant trend for large capacity washing machines. Over 80% of models sold in the UK held 7kg or more. 9kg models overtook 8kg as the fastest-growing category, sales were up by 1.6% and there was also an increase in the even larger 1-kg category which grew by 0.6%”

Convenience is king

But it’s not just the sheer capacity of laundry appliances which offer consumers more convenience, programs which take less time or are optimised to reduce further chores, such as handwashing or ironing are fast-becoming a must.  Head of Gourmet Academy UK & Ireland of V-ZUG James Smith explains: “High-end consumers are looking for washing machines that are highly-efficient, that protect their laundry and that make their life easier. This includes steam anti-crease that helps to reduce the chore of ironing by removing creases, as well as specific delicate programmes and low temperature washes, which give the ability to machine wash a wider range of garments.” While Dawn Stockell, brand manager of LG, points out: “Functions that have increased in popularity since last year include Delayed Start, Wash Efficiency and Quick Wash. Recent research completed by LG revealed that more than 60% of respondents admitted to frequently defaulting to Quick Wash functions to complete their laundry.”

But among the technological functions gaining greater hold across laundry appliances is allergy care, which experts suggest are suited for families with young children, as they can often have sensitive skin. Marketing director of Baumatic, Owain Harrison says: “One of the fastest-growing functions relates to allergy care – a number of manufacturers including Baumatic have developed special functions to reduce the presence of allergens in clothing. The ‘allergy care’ option is present in all Baumatic built-in washing machines and allows clothes to be washed in a large quantity of water, ensuring that detergent is properly dissolved and garments are cleansed and rinsed to perfection.”

Turning to technology

And now manufacturers have turned to technology to further enhance the ease of use, enabling users to download information about fabric care, or stain removal for example. It enables manufacturers to personalise the washing experience for consumers, providing them with information specific to their needs. LG uses NFC technology as Dawn Stockell explains: “Users can simply tap a compatible smartphone against the machine to download diagnostic information or upload new wash cycles tailored specifically to individual garments and materials, all handles through the intuitive Smart Laundry App.” It also provides the HomeChat service, which allows a consumer to control all their compatible appliances on a single device. Stockell of LG continues: “Simply texting ‘I’m going on vacation’ will turn on the refrigerator’s power-saving model and set the washing machine to run a wash cycle on the day before your return”. But industry experts have mixed views on the importance of Wi-Fi and App controls, as some consumers still battle with laundry machine illiteracy. Product development manager of Smeg UK, Joan Fraser comments: “More technology is on the way it is questionable of how ready consumers are for it and how desirable it is to them.”

Heat pump rise

However, technology that has seemingly become embraced by consumers is heat pump dryers. XXX of Electrolux points out: “Heat pump dryers have grown by 40% in the last year to be worth £28million.” The reason is what was formally considered an energy-hungry appliance has now been transformed into a more efficient model. Laura Selton explains how much water one of Beko’s washer dryer saves: “The Beko WDA91440W combined washer dryer uses ambient cold air drawn n through the perforated vent on the front of the machine to cool the condenser. This is then blown out through the back of the machine – a technology that can save up to 7,500 litres of water per year, which is the equivalent of 95 bath tubs.”  And now heat pump dryer technology has filtered down the market, enabling retailers to cater for a wider market of consumers.

Demo via video

But how can kitchen showrooms capitalise on these growing laundry appliance sales? First of all, industry experts suggest kitchen retailers must know the USPs of washing machine and dryer products inside out and not only show appliances in the studio but also must be able to highlight technology in individual models. A live demonstration may not be as exciting a cookery class but using YouTube videos may help showcase the washing and drying technology of the models. Product and marketing specialist at Haier UK & Ireland, Twarita Arya points out: “We are making more product videos available online to allow consumers to really get familiar with our appliances and their functions before making an informed choice. With planned purchase increasingly common, we have noted that retailers with an online presence are also creating their own video guides.” By making jargon, easier to explain, along with washing and drying technology, will help retailers boost laundry sales. While Laura Selton of Grundig says go a step further with an at-home rather than instore demo: “Go the extra mile by offering to visit the customer a few weeks later and give them a personal tutorial.”

Certainly laundry appliance sales could open up a valuable sales opportunity for kitchen showrooms. Combining large capacity washers and dryers, with specialist wash programmes, together with the ability to explain the technology to consumers, laundry sales too could be profitable for showrooms too.

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News