It’s often said that appliances make the kitchen, both for their stunning visual impact and for the functional benefits they bring to the space. And the range of products available today can be a designer’s dream – there is likely an appliance perfectly suited to any look and capability a client is after. The trick is to know what’s new and necessary, and what might be superfluous or a passing fad.
While preferred features vary by appliance type, value, efficiency and functionality always top the list, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by KBDN.
Practicality is of prime importance, according to Zach Elkin, director of brand marketing for Thermador at BSH Home Appliances Corp., in Huntington Beach, CA. He notes, “The days of status and excess are behind us, so we’re seeing more people buying appliances they actually use to cook.”
“People want to buy appliances that are smart for the home and that fit their lifestyles,” agrees Blake Woodall, v.p. of Vent-A-Hood in Richardson, TX.
And, while technology continues to advance, many manufacturers say that the most popular innovations are less about the trophy bells and whistles than about improving functionality.
“There’s a tremendous amount of innovation going on,” says Juliet Johnson, AKBD, CAPS, Jenn-Air brand experience manager for Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, MI.
“There’s been so much improvement in how appliances perform their basic functions that much of this innovation is about giving consumers a better user experience. That can mean everything from improved interior lighting to controls that meet a very specific need, like rapid chilling of wine or cooking without the need to pre-heat.”
A Focus on Value
In a still-challenging economy, value is on everyone’s mind. Designers know that they must guide their customers to appliances that will meet their needs while standing the test of time, and manufacturers know that the products they offer must offer true value.
“Consumers are seeking to maximize the value they are getting from an appliance,” says Ellis Mass, director of brand communications for Englewood Cliffs, NJ-based LG Electronics USA. “Reliability is important, as consumers want to know that the investment they are making will last.”
Elkin says that appliances must also offer “smart value,” due in part to the trend of cooking more at home. “‘Smart value’ doesn’t necessarily mean low-cost appliances, but appliances that offer value in the form of practical cooking innovations that buyers finds useful in fulfilling their passions. This is especially true in the luxury appliance category,” he says.
Johnson agrees that even the luxury end of the market is searching for value. “It’s not enough these days to offer products that will look great and work beautifully for years and years. We’re now offering very generous promotions that reward consumers for their purchase of our products. That’s fairly new in the luxury appliance category,” she says.
Jeff Wimberly, v.p./sales and marketing for the residential and hospitality market for Perlick, based in Milwaukee, WI, concurs that in these tough times, the focus needs to be on creating quality, innovative products that provide long-lasting value.
“Whether it is based on cost, design, performance, longevity, warranties or a combination of everything, shoppers are more informed these days [and are less inclined to] make impulse buys,” Woodall notes. “So, to win that attention, there is an element of pricing competition.” Yet he also believes that companies like Vent-A-Hood – which survived the Great Depression and World War II’s metal rationing – will weather the storm by focusing on offering quality products and remembering the importance of value. As he explains, “We’ve witnessed enough swings in the economy to know how to stay focused and profitable.”