Showerheads, by the numbers
There’s good news in the nation’s showers. After flat sales in the 12 months ended July 2011, showerheads began to heat up, eventually beating the performance of last year by 12.4% and the year before by 10.6%. Consumer research from The NPD Group also showed specialty stores as the fastest-growing channel.
From next to nothing, rainfall/drencher showerheads increased to 7.1% of market share in the 12 months ended July 2012. The most common type: “handheld with massage,” at 20.7% penetration. Chrome is the leading finish for all showerheads, as shown below.
The young millennials have charged into the lead among age groups purchasing showerheads, just barely surpassing the 45-to-54-year-old group. Meanwhile, the gender of the buyer has turned increasingly masculine in each of the past two years.
Price leads the list of motivators among the reasons to shop at a specific retailer, and also as the motivator for the actual purchase once in the store, where features are a close second.
Methodology: NPD data are based on monthly tracking of more than 30 home improvement-related categories and 30,000 opt-in consumers.
*2012 data reflects the period August 2011 through July 2012.
**Key: WHC: warehouse home center; MM: mass merchant; DS: department store;
SS: specialty store; HS: hardware store
*** More than one answer accepted
Innovation showers the bathroom
Convenience and the creature comforts of home are factors shaping the market for bath accessories, which are increasingly incorporating digital technology into the newest offerings, according to designers and suppliers.
While trends in fixtures encompass square-shaped and clean-lined faucets, high-arc units and single-level chrome handles, hands-free faucets using smart technology is the biggest trend in 2012, experts say.
“Hands-free faucets was a huge success for Delta in the kitchen with its smart touch technology,” said Ashley Perry, showroom consultant, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, King of Prussia, Pa. “They have now introduced this in the bathroom on the single-handle lavatory faucet from Jason Wu.”
Wu, a fashion designer, collaborated with luxury bathroom company Brizo to create a collection of bathroom faucets featuring SmartTouch Plus technology, which allows for a hands-free and touch-sensitive operation.
This so-called “smart faucet,” with its sleek modern design and pink glowing light, is gaining wider appeal in the higher-end markets. The faucet can be programmed to dispense water at a chosen temperature; the technology recognizes the user’s face and automatically turns on the water to that temperature.
New faucets entering the market in 2012 included Kohler’s Tripoint, a touchless electronic faucet that is factory set, so there is no need to calibrate; and the Muirsis Pinnacle in satin nickel, which includes motion-activated on/off, flow control and temperature adjustment with multiple pre-sets.
Perry said most manufacturers offer matching bath accessories to their faucet lines for added convenience. “Most often the accessories are the last decisions to be made by the homeowners,” she said. “This allows consumers to save money on the initial purchase but also take some time to think about what kind of accessories they would like to add to the room.”
Max Isley, co-founder and partner of The Kitchen & Bath Channel, said that while convenience is influencing purchase decisions, there is still a segment of the population that wants to pamper themselves. “The hotel/motel industry has started to upgrade their bathrooms, so people who are coming back from business trips and enjoyed some of the bathroom amenities in these hotels will say, ‘I want this in my home,’ ” Isley said.
Isley noted that advanced technology is being integrated into a variety of fixtures to provide a better user experience while increasing the value for the consumer.
Gina Bon, a kitchen and bath designer at Airoom Architects & Builders, in Chicago, agreed. “People are definitely going with digital technology today,” she said. “Typically it is more expensive, but they see the value aesthetically in electronic interfaces that incorporate features like steam and music in the shower.”
Playing into the convenience theme is the increased popularity of universal designs that allow for easy access into and out of the bathroom. These barrier-free bathrooms feature walk-in tubs; curtainless showers; push-button doorknobs; grab bars for the shower area; and pullout or pull-down, single-lever faucets.
While baby boomers are primarily driving this trend, Isley said the demand for products that are accessible and functional for everyone increases as these products become more attractive, available and appreciated.
He cited an industry statistic that by age 40, 85% of consumers will need a universal bathroom at some point. “These people may have been injured, have carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. But they also like the convenience of a push-button front knob that they can open with their elbows,” he said.
Grab bars, once the domain of eldercare facilities, are increasingly turning up in conventional bathrooms, designers said. “Bath manufacturers are working to not make them look so utilitarian,” Bon said. “Today’s grab bars offer much sleeker styles than in the past.”
IHS Global/HIRI industry forecast holds steady
The September 2012 IHS Global Insight/HIRI Home Improvement Products Market Forecast for total home improvement product sales for 2012 is little changed — pointing to an increase of 4.9% to $274 billion, compared with the March 2012 forecast of 5.0% growth to $283 billion.
Consumer Market sales are expected to increase by 5.3% and Professional Market sales by 3.9%, according to the data.
As employment growth accelerates and housing markets improve in 2014, IHS/HIRI expects stronger growth of home improvement sales averaging 5.9% in 2014-2015 with a slight deceleration in the following two years as the housing market cycle runs its course.
The national economic situation will certainly have a say in the matter.
Most recent economic reports point to continued growth, albeit at a modest pace. The IHS/HIRI forecast of 2.1% growth of real GDP this year is unchanged from the March 2012 report on the home improvement products market.
Uncertainty over the deepening recession in the Eurozone will weigh on the U.S. economy. So will uncertainty over federal spending and tax imbalances, according to the forecast, which now expects GDP growth in 2013 of 1.8%, down 0.5% from the March forecast.
On the other hand is housing: “Some of the most upbeat news is coming from housing, with prices now beginning to turn up, and home sales and housing starts trending higher,” according to the IHS/HIRI news release. “We expect existing-home sales to increase 6.2% this year and 8.1% in 2013. Housing starts are trending higher than we expected, but we do not expect a sharp acceleration next year from the 24% increase projected this year.”
The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), headquartered in Tampa, Fla., is an independent, not-for-profit organization comprised of about 80 manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and allied organizations in the home improvement industry. The group’s 2012 fall conference in Chicago, to be held Oct. 17, is called “Retailing in Home Improvement: 2013 and Beyond.”
For information, visit hiri.org.