Feature: The UK bathroom market continues to develop
By Sarah Brownlee
The UK bathroom market is slowly growing and is one of the most important and influential in Europe according to several leading bathroom manufacturers.
German brand Grohe has identified the UK as one of two ‘key growth markets’ in Europe. ‘This is based on the the sheer scale of opportunity and potential we can see,’ confirms Grohe UK managing director Maha El Kharbotly-Opas. Hansgrohe too argues that the UK is currently ‘extremely important both in terms of value and influence’, with London leading the way as an international design hub.
Although progress has been slow since 2008, there are positive signs that the market is picking up, in part due to an increase in property development, which has triggered an upturn in work for architecture and interior design firms. ‘The UK has significance for global brands as it is home to many of the leading designers and architectural firms co-ordinating projects both in the UK and worldwide. The biggest change has been in the second half of 2013 in the hotel industry, which has seen a significant boost in investment. It seems to now have the confidence to start those projects that they had been delaying,’ explains Darren Paxford, national sales manager at Turkish bathroom company VitrA.
“Water and energy efficiency will become increasingly important. European governments and the EU commission are committed to tackling the increasing problem of water and energy shortage (latest reports suggest that Europe will suffer drought by 2050). And bathrooms will become more digitised as consumers seek more gadgets for use in the bathroom.”
There are also signs that UK consumers are steadily regaining confidence. Grohe invested heavily in its UK business during the economic downturn and is now reaping the benefits. ‘All our business indicators show that the uplift in the UK bathroom market is being driven by consumers both inside and outside of London,’ says El Kharbotly-Opas. ‘For the past 18 months we have seen consistent growth across all channels especially in product categories driven by innovation.’ According to Spanish brand Roca the number of bathrooms per household in the UK is growing while Swiss company Laufen has noted more demand for ‘design-led’ products, sanitaryware and furniture.
The Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) reiterates that key issues such as innovation and sustainability (more specifically matters of water and energy efficiency) will continue to drive product development in years to come.‘Modern bathrooms are more sustainable than they have ever been and members of the BMA are leading the world in developing products which provide performance with efficiency,’ says BMA spokesperson Terry Wooliscroft.
Martin Mongan, UK Managing Director, Hansgrohe:
“The bathroom as a home spa and sanctuary is a theme we are expecting to develop with the leading showrooms in the UK already starting to dedicate large areas of their showrooms to this trend. Steam, sauna and large wet room areas decorated in natural stone with fantastic showering will become a feature of the best bathrooms going forward.”
Darren Paxford, National Sales Manager, VitrA:
“Bathroom furniture is the biggest growth area as consumers seem to have really switched on to the benefits it will bring them in terms of storage and reducing clutter.”
Maha El Kharbotly-Opas, UK Managing Director, Grohe:
“The bedroom and the bathroom are starting to merge into one space with walls becoming a more fluid concept as screens and open plan concepts become more popular ways to divide the two rooms. The concept of a complete ‘me’ zone means there is no need to divide the two as in fact they complement each other and allow for a central sanctuary within your home.”
Cover image: Kartell by Laufen