While shower systems and tubs have always played a key role in the bath, the economic challenges of recent years have made these increasingly important in creating the refuge that stressed out consumers desire. For that reason, today’s shower systems and tubs must not only be highly functional, but also create a soothing sanctuary where homeowners can go to relax and/or rejuvenate.
However, it’s not just about beauty, functionality or even escapism, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by KBDN. Rather, these fixtures need to address all of the above, plus environmental concerns, accessibility and customization capabilities.
“Demand for home spa-like shower installations has grown dramatically as consumers seek the privacy, flexibility and convenience of stress reduction in the home,” says Les Petch, marketing manager for performance showering at Kohler Global Faucets in Kohler, WI.
Robert Larson, director, new business development, for Woodbridge, IL based Danze agrees: “Most people want a relaxing and spa-like experience in their home shower. This drives the demand for more features and better quality shower products including valves, controls and showerheads.”
As daily life becomes more hectic, manufacturers have seen a surge in demand for upgraded shower systems. “Lifestyles have changed over the past few years,” says Ziggy Kulig, president of Graff Faucets, in Milwaukee, WI. “We see our customers’ main desires being based on an increased demand for comfort and sophisticated functions, to easily enjoy within the short available time of the day.”
This growth in showers, however, has not displaced the bathtub entirely. Kulig says, “The bathtub is a luxury [for when] people want to dedicate more time to their comfort. The bath stands for an oasis of well-being, therefore the size and the freestanding versions become the main features for those who wish to immerse themselves in a relaxing atmosphere.”
Michael Terrill, marketing manager for Kohler bathing products, finds that in the master bath, the combination bath/shower enclosure is being replaced with larger, dedicated shower and dedicated bathing spaces. Kohler is also seeing a resurgence in freestanding baths, he says.
Dave McFarland, director of marketing & new product development for Aquatic in Anaheim, CA concurs that freestanding tubs are becoming more popular. He calls these pedestal tubs “art pieces for the bathroom.” An acrylic freestanding tub can allow a designer or homeowner to mix and match colors – perhaps a black outer shell with a white inner shell, for instance, which McFarland is seeing happen frequently.
Designing a bath that balances consumers’ desires for a spa experience with eco-responsibility can be a difficult task, particularly when multiple sprays are desired. Equally challenging is the fact that many homeowners simply aren’t willing to give up the drenching shower experience or deep soak they’ve come to rely on as their escape from all of the stresses of day-to-day life.
“The green aspect is huge and has been growing in significance, but there’s always been a bit of conflict in this product category between [delivering the desired] benefit to the user and [being] environmentally responsible,” says McFarland.
Al DeGenova, director of marketing communications and training for Grohe America based in Bloomingdale, IL concurs: “People want to conserve, but they don’t want to sacrifice a good shower.”
While new technology has helped to create showerheads that offer a richer-feeling shower while still conserving water, those who desire multiple body sprays may need to seek out other options for staying green, for instance, taking shorter showers or using less water in other areas of the home.
TJ Mullally, national sales manager for Jaclo in Cranford, NJ, agrees that most consumers do not want to compromise on their shower experience. “They want the shower that they want,” he says. There are, he adds, a small group of people who are concerned about low flow showers, but the majority want their desired design and functionality more than anything else.