Kueny has also seen increased demand for appliances outside of the kitchen. In larger households in particular, he says, people will often have kitchenettes or bars in their bedrooms, where they set up a coffee station and perhaps a small dishwasher unit. Entertainment rooms might also have coffee systems, or even a modular induction cooktop unit, for ease in entertaining without having to stay in the kitchen.
This spread of appliances isn’t confined to the indoors. Full kitchens are being designed for outdoor use, and there is a demand for outdoor appliances that go well beyond the simple grill.
“Outdoor kitchens used to include little more than a built-in grill,” says Faulk. “Over the last few years, they have become fully functional, which means including not only the grill, but also a sink, refrigeration, storage units and prep areas. I think this was a case of simple evolution coupled with the trends toward entertaining at home and investing in the home. Today, outdoor kitchens are going beyond the basic features and becoming more luxurious. Popular entertaining options now include wine chillers, keg tappers and pizza ovens.”
While economic experts believe the economy is on its way to a slow recovery, the economic challenges of the past few years have certainly impacted the appliance industry. This is particularly true of specialty appliances, where purchases are most often made out of want rather than need.
“Specialty niche products fall into a mindset of being a luxury item, and when you get into that, people are going to buy what they need right now,” says Lozar.
Kueny agrees: “These categories aren’t the everyday necessity of a kitchen. There are certain fundamentals that a kitchen is always going to have, and there are certain products that sort of fall out.” However, he adds, “There’s still that audience out there that really wants to set themselves apart and have something unique, and they’re willing to make that statement, regardless of the circumstances.”
Formico concurs that the economy has had a tremendous affect on the market. “Specialty appliances are purchased after the ‘must have’ basics are chosen. With the reduction in discretionary income, spending on luxury or convenience items has been hit hard, and with a skeptical country afraid to purchase more than what is necessary, this cautionary attitude will prevail for some time to come – even after recovery is recognized,” she says.
Wimberly adds another perspective, however, saying, “With the economy the way it is, you’re back to seeing more people cocooning, yet not necessarily wanting to give up their social lifestyle. So they’re in some regard investing a little bit in home entertainment.”
Leuthe says his company is finding that the mindset of the consumer is changing a little, causing homeowners to scale back their choices – even when they can afford a more expensive option. However, he also says Sub-Zero is seeing some slow, but steady, growth – evidence that the economy is turning
Faulk adds, “We are confident that the trend [of outdoor kitchens] will outlast the economic challenges we are currently facing, and there is agreement from designers, architects and builders.”
He states that a National Association of Home Builders Remodeling Outlook Study reported that demand for outdoor kitchens in upscale homes is predicted to rise steadily over the next 10 years.
“Kalamazoo has experienced 20% growth in pizza oven sales, and our outdoor kitchen equipment business as a whole has remained strong over recent years. We’re helped by the fact that we are at the highest end of the market,” he remarks.
While trends ebb and flow, manufacturers are always looking ahead to the future to stay abreast of consumer demands, taking advantage of new technology that meets consumer needs and desires. Miele is doing this by looking at how to make appliances more convenient, says Kueny, such as having plumbed coffee systems rather than those with tanks that need to be filled regularly.
Leuthe also says it’s about seeing refinements to the products. In conducting analysis of what to do for the next generation of products, he says Sub-Zero has heard people say they may want bigger drawers. “[We] are looking at going to bigger drawers and understanding the dynamics of that,” he says.