Anderson says that customers first request a dual system until they are informed about the benefits and purpose of each. “I believe most dealers or distributors don’t know the difference between the two systems, so they encourage people to buy both,” he says. The wet system, he says, is designed to be a deep tissue massage, good for helping to rehab a sport injury, for instance. The air system, on the other hand, is a more even and efficient body and/or skin massage, he says, safe for all ages to use.
With an aging population, a lot of attention is given to access and safety issues. People want to be able to get in and out of their tub easily, without the fear of falling. One of the ways manufacturers are responding to this need is with walk-in tubs that also offer hydrotherapy.
“The market is getting behind the walk-in tub because that’s a growth industry, especially in today’s economic times,” says Wittkop. The doors on the tubs manufactured by his company swing outward, which is less common but a big competitive advantage, according to Wittkop. Doors that swing in, he says, are easier to make, but harder to get in and out of. He also says that in the current economy, the whirlpool market is down, while the walk-in bathtub market is growing. “People can’t use the whirlpool unless they can get in and out of it safely,” he notes.
Anderson says, “Our market is primarily people 55+ and they are looking for an easier and safer way to take care of themselves, with the option of body and/or skin therapy as needed.”
Walk-in tubs aren’t the only way to provide better access, however. Kornowa says, “When a lot of people think of the aging population, the mind immediately goes to a walk-in tub.” There are, however, alternatives.
“It doesn’t have to look antiseptic in order to be functional,” says Kornowa. Options from MTI include a tub with an 11"-wide front deck. “You can sit on that and turn into the tub as opposed to having to walk over it,” says Kornowa.
Freestanding tubs that become the focal point for a design have long been hot, and these are increasingly available with hydrotherapy options, manufacturers say.
“Five years ago there were virtually no freestanding baths on the market that offered therapy benefits,” says Quiet. “Today, the selection is vast, with traditional [and] contemporary styles available in many different materials. The designs of freestanding baths lend themselves well to air bath technology, so customers no longer have to skimp on style when wanting a therapeutic bath.”
Lachance has also seen the rise in demand for freestanding jetted tubs. “Consumers are opting for larger bathrooms in which they want to showcase their tub as the masterpiece, almost like a museum sculpture,” he says.
Marroquin says, “The actual bath is becoming the centerpiece of the bathroom, with fine furniture type details.” She adds that Jacuzzi recently launched several new freestanding jetted baths in both contemporary and traditional designs.
While white and biscuit are still the most popular colors for jetted tubs, manufacturers are also seeing these trends branching out. “For the first time in a decade, we are seeing baths ordered in more colors than ever,” says Quiet. She adds, “It appears that color is most popular with freestanding designs. The freestanding design of these baths, combined with color, actually brings the impression of art or expensive furniture into the bathroom.”
Lachance sees gray or charcoal emerging as a niche market. He adds, “Earth tones are still very popular, but people are drawn to both vintage hues and new bright colors.”
For saunas, Hass says that while Western Red Cedar is the most popular wood, it is becoming expensive and less plentiful. He has seen a lot of interest in Scandinavian and Nordic woods, such as spruce, which are more plentifully available. However, he adds, “I think most people would prefer to have cedar if given a choice and comparable price.”
Altman agrees: “The sauna wood used typically in North America is cedar, but there are choices such as redwood, spruce or certain varieties of pine. In Nordic countries, you’ll find most using light colored woods such as spruce or pine, but it appears the North American tastes run much more toward the look and scent provided by cedar.”
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