Not just hot air

Setting a standard for fan ovens, Neff introduced forced air cooking into the home with the launch of its CircoTherm® convection technology in 1971. This revolving air technology revolutionised baking and roasting in the oven. It has its origins in commercial kitchens, where professionalism and efficiency have always played key roles. Neff has made this technology available for use in the home so that consumers can achieve better results.

Circulating the air-flow

CircoTherm® works by drawing air from the oven via a powerful fan, which looks like a propeller and is made from heavy die-cast aluminium. lt then heats up the air and forces it back into the oven cavity though strategically positioned ducts in the rear wall. By continuously circulating hot air around the oven, in this way, the desired temperature is achieved more quickly than in a normal oven. In fact, the air moves exceptionally quickly, at a rate of 10 metres per second  almost as fast as 100 metre world record sprinter Usain Bolt (10.44m/sec). And the fan is individually ‘balanced’ to ensure that every one rotates smoothly and evenly for maximum efficiency. It’s perhaps no  surprise then, that this fan technology helps save time, as little or no preheating is required. And it saves energy too, with most of Neff’s main ovens coming with an A+ 20% energy efficiency rating, which means they are 20% more economical than an A-rated oven.

Transfer-free, even cooking

And because the hot air is focused directly onto the food, the heat is evenly distributed on shelf positions 1,3 and 4. This causes the pores of the meat, dough or vegetables to close immediately, keeping all the flavour where it belongs, resulting  in better tasting food. Infact, a complete three course meal can be cooked at the same time, on the three shelf levels without the flavours intermingling. Because of the way and speed at which the heat is delivered, roasts are quickly sealed. lt means the juices are retained, producing less shrinkage and producing moist, succulent joints. CircoTherm® is also a great way to grill food. Since the air circulates around the food, there’s no need to turn fish, burgers, steaks or sausages. And the even heat distribution is ideal for ‘batch baking’ of, for example, cakes, biscuits or muffins.

Neff senior home economist, Lynn Williams says: “l love using CircoTherm® as this is really important to me when |’m cooking more delicate items such as biscuits. I also love using CircoTherm® because it’s perfect to cook less sensitive items where even heat  distribution is less critical. Many other systems will dry out items over time but CircoTherm® delivers moist results, so I know I can get a great roast pork joint with perfect crackling or a delicious roast beef joint that is beautifully juicy and tender inside but crisp on the outside.”

Lower cooking temperatures

CircoTherm® generates plenty of power in convection mode, meaning food can be prepared at lower temperatures. This has another advantage: the oven typically operates between 160 -  190°C. It means there is less  splashing and spitting, making the oven much easier to clean and keeping it cleaner for longer. But that’s not all: When you open the door of a regular convection oven, the hot air escapes very quickly. ln a Neff oven, on the other hand, the strong recirculating fan quickly generates a vacuum in the back of the oven. This creates natural suction, which keeps the hot air in the oven, and saving the cook getting hit by a blast of hot air – literally. With the inclusion of CircoTherm® and technology in the Neff oven, you can deliver professional results – easiIy, everytime. It’s not all hot air!

Room for improvement

If you were to summarise the inaugural KbbLondon in estate agent speak, it would probably be along the lines of bijou with limited kerbside appeal in a busy commercial district. It boasts some original features but in need of repair ‘Must be viewed’.

Same difference

KbbLondon was never going to rival its older sibling kbbBirmingham in terms of size and scale. But it had been separated at birth by its looks. Surprisingly, the organisers had opted to almost replicate the entrance ofthe Midlands event in a London location. It meant the show lacked an initial appeal or dare it be said bling factor, which you would come to expect at a show in the capital. Particularly, when you consider one of its main interior exhibition rivals as the style supremo 100% Design. Of course, that’s not say the exhibitors’ stands weren’t impactful and worthy of the most fashionable venue, they were! But certainly, it was a missed  opportunity to differentiate the kbb trade shows by design.

Room for improvement

And this was re-iterated by one of its feature areas, The Room, where the execution, sadly, didn’t live up to the theoretical concept. White sheets for walls, does not a ‘luxurious and stunning environment’ make. It was a real shame, particularly as the exhibitors in this area of the hall did showcase products fitting of one. However, and I should point out very quickly, there were some original and interesting installations at the event. International designer Rock Galpin had created his vision of ‘Future Bathrooms 2020′ and CP Hart had created the fun ‘Return of the Avocado Bathroom’ The interactive Innovation Award section, which allowed visitors to vote for the most innovative product, also garnered interest from the busy but dull brown carpeted aisles.

Views all round

Which neatly segways into the most important aspect of any trade show – was it worthwhile for exhibitors and visitors? From the packed seminar room, crowds around the CAD and software companies and those we spoke to at the show, it would have to be ‘yes’. But it wasn’t only the quantity of visitors at the show, which has influenced this conclusion, it was that business was actually being done. So what the show lacked in size, it had made up for in stature, with many of the exhibitors rebooking for the London event in 2012. It had not only met but exceeded some of their expectations. So, all in all, and especially for a first show – it was a good outing for kbbtondon. It was worth a visit and with some cosmetic work could be a good development for London. We will be taking a look at the products launched at the show.

The design brief or what Bisazza?

What was your design brief or what did Bisazza ask you to achieve with the collection?

We were in agreement from the start of the collaboration as we wanted to create an innovative, modular system that would allow, first of all, a very special and glamorous design and secondly, some variations and options that would be adequate for various situations.

What was your starting point?

Our starting point was to evaluate weaknesses in traditional bathroom systems. I’ve always found them to be too clinical and lacking of beauty and identity. I had the intention of using metal tubes to create the structure that would link the components.The idea of combining high quality materials like lacquered woods, bevelled mirrors, marble and glass was clear from the start. Once there, it was all about dreaming about options.

Can you explain your design process for the collection?

Like always, the departure point was the sketchbook where I can dream. I made infinite sketches or possibilities which we then tried out with renders.After the collection was clearer; we went to prototyping the first element; the console and mirror and from then on it was a very long and dynamic process of prototyping, correcting and moving forward.

How long did the whole process take from initial idea to final product?

We worked intensively for at least two years on this coIIection;the concept was started even before.| would say this collection is the result of three years of work.

Which was the most difficult product to design?

Ironically we had most difficulties with the simple item;the shower Finding a way to make it simple, interesting and adaptable was not simple but eventually we got there.

And which product in the collection is your favourite?

I love the structure of the sink and mirror in all its variants. I think it is very special and innovative. What does this bathroom collection offer that perhaps others may not? Style, quality and personality.

How does designing a bathroom compare with your other work?

It is always about seeing things from another perspective and coming up with a different approach to the same problem. This approach is the same when designing a chain a lamp or a bathroom collection.

What did you learn?

A lot: It is an intense learning curve and for me learning about the subject is always the most interesting part of a project. Personally, I try to listen to the producers and understand their concerns as their input on the subject is always valuable.

Who or what inspires you?

There is a great deal of inspiration sources for me. Recentlyl have been very interested in the aesthetics from the 30s, 50s and 60s.The qualities and shapes have such strength and elegance that are very inspiring. Aside from this, I find nature, history and art to be the greatest inspiration sources of all.

Would you say you have a signature style?

I think my style is very clear and visible.There is a continuation and a character palpable throughout all my works.The humour; the innovation, the love for organic and feminine shapes and the emphasis on quality materials and working with artisans is a constant characteristic.

What product would you most like to have designed?

There are so many outstanding designs in history it is difficult to become jealous of any one in particular I admire designs and designers whose work is recognisable and that always bring that additional humanity to pieces.

Small is beautiful

Measuring just 1,200sq. ft, Ripples London is not the largest showroom in the UK or even in the local area but it does have a mighty presence. Having been nominated as finalist in the Bathroom Showroom of the Year category of the Industry Awards 2011, what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in style. It boasts kerbside appeal with its pavement flowerboxes. And with a recently revamped window display, which the company plans to change on a regular basis, it aims to attract consumers into the showroom to buy. “Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason are known for their window displays and change them on a regular basis”, says franchisee Lisa Kyme.

Setting showroom standards

But the showroom sets retailing standards not only through its front window display but through its careful choice of settings, and layout, creating a customer journey. Lisa continues: “Obviously when we are planning the showroom, we look at materials, styles, colour schemes and the overall aesthetic as you walk through the showroom from the front door until you reach the end”. And the showroom displays are based on a ’what you see is what you get’ philosophy. Lisa adds: “AlI of our sets are created by our designers, who create the bathrooms for all of our customers. We mix and match  products from different manufacturers to create bespoke displays, which we then go on to sell as bespoke bathrooms”. And although the showroom isn’t the largest, Lisa is confident that it provides enough choice for the consumer: “I think we’ve got enough choice in our displays; we’ve gone from completely traditional to quite modern displays. We’ve also got drawings of designs that we’ve created, with finished photos of the bathrooms that we can show people. And I think there’s enough there to give them an indication of what we are capable of.”

Selecting few suppliers

Of course a key choice for any showroom is not just the design of the displays but also the suppliers chosen to be on show. Lisa explains that less is more: “Across the different component parts, we try to keep it to a minimum. Generally speaking, we have two to three in each area. So we have two to three brassware suppliers, two to three shower enclosure suppliers, sanitaryware etc. We have a representation of all our suppliers in the showroom. Alongside manufactured product we also have bespoke options as well. We have a bespoke joinery company that does all our furniture, bath panels, cupboards and they also make concealed mirror cabinets for us. We use a joinery company in Bath, which when Roger Kyme  started Ripples in Bath, that was the company he used. Ripples is very loyal to its suppIiers.”
Business is booming
With such attention to detail of its supplier and display choices in the showroom, it’s no revelation that business is good. “We are up on the last Hnancial year, about 30%, over the last eight months compared to the same time last year There was certainly a period when it was a bit difficult and all that teaches you is that you have to really look at the business and think ‘where can I strip costs out, how can we improve and how can we get better at what we’re doing?’ because that’s the only way you can make it through. Not that I was expecting this year to be 30% higher but I’m pleased with what we’ve done,” says Lisa. One of the reasons she cites is that the company closes the deal on the day: “You can’tjust sit _ there looking at them hopefully and willing them to get their credit card out. Wou|dn’t that be lovely? There is a closing process to any sale and actually asking for the order is one part of it and we’ve been quite successful at that.” Lisa adds: “We’ve only been here three years (although we have been trading for nine); it’s still a relatively new location, so you would always be looking for growth’ She explains: “l think the London market tends to move a bit quicker than some other areas of the UK. Speaking to suppliers,it would seem the developer side are doing a lot of projects at the moment, so that is obviously improving. We’ve had lots of customers coming in recently with estate agent details, so the housing market is moving again, and that has had a knock-on effect on sales.”
Olympic 2012 affect

And Lisa is confident that business will continue to blossom, with the help of the Olympic affect. She explains: “Barring any national catastrophe, the economy is improving. John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, which we would align ourselves to in terms of client profile, are selling well. The trend seems to be, not just Ripples in London but across the Ripples  Group that things are improving across the board, so I don’t see any reason why it should slow down or revert backwards. April was a tough month, purely because ofthe Bank Holidays. But again we have picked that up in May and expect to in june. I would see the end of this calendar year as continuing quite strongly. I think next year, things will improve again. Obviously, we’ve got the Olympics. A supplier mentioned to me that a lot of people will be doing up their homes to rent out to visitors who are attending the Olympics.”

Franchises join together

But with a recently opened Ripples franchise in Chelsea, won’t this actually create competition for her London  showroom? Lisa retaliates: “It’s actually a help. My perception of London is that it’s made up of lots of little towns and the people that shop in that area don’t necessarily come to the West End. In the same way, we don’t get people coming from the East End of London. If we look at our client profile of customers over the last nine years, there are very specific postcodes that we attract. Having Chelsea will re- enforce Ripples name in London”. In fact, she points out that they have created a joint marketing campaign for London. “We have just started an advertising campaign across London. It is branded as Ripples in London.”

Specification in store

Lisa is looking to further build on the Ripples brand by opening another franchise showroom in London. “I’m hoping at some point, over the next 12 months, to open a showroom in north London. As with all the Ripples showrooms you look at areas of the country that have a reasonable population and of that population, a good level of ABl’s. We would put ourselves on a par with people like Mark Wilkinson, Nicholas Anthony, Poggenpohl and Alno. So, if they were in a particular area, then the likelihood is that a Ripples showroom would succeed there as well. I think the more showrooms Ripples has the stronger the brand will be in this area.”

And she is planning to widen her sales base too, by looking to attract commercial sales, on top of her retail sales. “We are looking at the specification market and hoping to get repeat business from that. We are going to be targeting architects and developers about specihc products like the new Geberit AquaClean shower toilet and products from Teuco that we’ve got on board’s Although Ripples London is small, franchisee Lisa Kyme certainly has big expectations for her future and the future of her business.

The green buck

Looking at the issue of sustainability, carbon footprints and generally being environmentally-friendly, are retailers using ‘green issues’ effectively enough to sell their products? lamie Gamble (JG): As a manufacturer and retailer of bespoke shower enclosures, we probably don’t make as much as we ought of the fact our product features glass produced locally, and the components being used are all sourced in this country.

So you could say it’s a British assembled product. I think these days people are quite conscious that products are made here. I don’t think we make enough of it and I think we might have to now.  Peter Robson (PR): We source a lot of products from China and don’t get asked about our environmental policy/footprint from small retailers, but we do get asked from our larger manufacturer customers. Bill Miller (BM): Oh, don’t get me started on it. Obviously appliances, from an energy point of view, are a key product in the home. Whenever l go to any European meetings at Gorenje, they always spend large slices of the day talking about how they will continue to develop ever more energy-efficient appliances. But about a year ago, in the UK, we really tried to make a big PR push on energy efficiency. It took us absolutely nowhere. We found  total apathy among retailers and having questioned the retailers, their customers as well. There just does not seem to yet be a link in the consumers mind between the appliances in the kitchen and l potential money-saving on energy. I think manufacturers, retailers and legislators need to have the finger pointed at them.

The energy labelling of appliances is currently an absolute mess. We’ve got this ridiculous situation, that on washing machines and wet products you have an A-rating and if it is an improvement over A, you show A—10%, A—20%, A-30%. When you’re talking cooling products, you show the improvement with a +, so you have A+, A++, A+++. Each plus represents 10%. So you have a situation when, in the only time in mathematics, a minus and a plus equals the same thing. PR: I have to say I’m speechless. l’m part ofthe industry and I didn’t know that. BM: We currently have a washing machine at A-10%. We have an oven at A-20%, and our cooling products are A+++. lt is a joke. We have asked retailers, ‘do consumers ask about energy efficiency? I tend to get the same answen ’no’. What they are more interested in is how much it costs.

Do you think it is up to the retailer to educate the consumer? BM: If you look at it in a hierarchical sense, it’s got to start with legislators. So, the EU needs to come up with energy labels that mean something and are  understandable. Then it’s up to the manufacturers to educate the retailers and then the retailers to represent that to the consumer I get very little sense from retailers and consumers that there is a great hunger tor energy-saving appliances. That is, unless you give a customer exactly the same product, at exactly the same price, but one is better energy saving than another Chris Hulme was recently quoted in the Daly Mail, where he suggested EU appliance manufacturers should present their products with a monthly cost of average energy use. Then all of a sudden, Eureka, consumers will get their heads around it. I think consumers can work out that A is better than B and that A+++ is better than A. But is it a penny better?

Is it a thousand pounds better?  Ifyou look at washing machines the most expensive thing, other than the clothes you put in it, is detergent. The energy usage of the average washing machine is just a couple of pounds. It really is very, very low. All the appliance manufacturers talk about energy efficiency but what they’re not talking about is the detergent use in the machine, which is by far the biggest cost. PR:. . .environmentally too. BM: Absolutely right, Peter There’s a lack of clarity. On one side you have lobbyists saying ‘we’re going to go to hell in a handcart, and all the resources will be gone’, then on the other side, you have another group of people, all eminent scientists, saying ‘complete rubbish, fossil fuels will last another thousand years, there’s not a problem’. People don’t know who to believe. You’ve got an awful lot of European appliance manufacturers bringing in products from China, presenting machines as being energy efficient.

But what they don’t talk about is the green mile. Also, under what conditions was the machine produced? PR: Having spent a lot of time working out in China. l first went out about 25 years ago to places like Shanghai and it really was a third world country lf you go to Shanghai today it will put London to shame, in temws of quality merchandise. The factories are smart, you will not find children working there. So sometimes we’re putting up defences in the UK because of green issues, child labour etc. We’re really doing the country a disservice. Do you think ‘green’ is more important to new build housing to meet the demands of Building Regulations more than kitchen refurbishments?

BM: We don’t sell much into the housing market but we do have a washing machine that uses 39 litres, which is remarkably low lt was an absolute dud of a machine in terms of sales. But we recently sold 300 of them to a contractor because he’s discovered the machine on the internet and he had to get under 40 litres. Architects and builders now have to energy rate their homes. lf you  go to the Sheds, or you go to Currys and Comet, you’ll struggle to find anything saying ‘this is the most energy efficient washing machine in storel lf the Sheds were talking more about energy efficiency then I’m sure the independents would be. I was with quite a big retailer and we were talking about this very subject and disappointed that our big push on energy efficiency didn’t get us anywhere. He said manufacturers don’t make it easy for the retailers to have an educated conversation with consumers. What they want to know is how much does the product cost to run? lfl have 12 fridges in my showroom, I can’t point to which is the most efficient. Where is this information? But manufacturers would have to agree that we all work to the same tariff.

Do you then think ‘green’ will be more of a consumer expectation than a selling point? BM: I do not see any major seed change at this stage, of consumer buying habits being changed simply on the basis of energy usage. Price still dominates in the UK. But energy use is improving because  manufacturers are bringing out better and better machines. To the point you’ve just made, it’s going to happen anyway.

PR: On the furniture side, the more consumers think about the environment, the more they opt for natural wood – which is completely   the opposite of what they are trying to achieve. Realistically, hardwoods are less environmentally-friendly. ‘ Laminates and foils have become so much better over the years, today, you can’t tell the difference between wood and the new laminates that are coming out. But fashion is fashion at the end ofthe day and is driving it.

Black sanitary ware range by Imperial bathrooms

Cifial has launched the CUDO collection, manufactured from solid brass and featuring a polished chrome finish. The mono basin spans three sizes including: The standard size measuring 137mm high with a projection of 112mm; The extended spout with a projection of 165mm and the tall version with a height of 315mm. The range also includes wall- mounted basin and bath options, as well as an open waterfall spout.

The Barcelona range has been introduced by Victoria + Albert Baths, inspired by the architecture within the Spanish city. The range comprises of a bath which measures 1800 x 840mm and two basins. Manufactured from the company’s Quarrycast material, the bath is double-ended and designed to provide comfort in shared bathing. The Barcelona 64 countertop basins are designed to complement the bath and create a focal point either alone or as a pair.

At the recent ISH exhibition, Villeroy & Boch offered the Futurion Flat shower tray in a choice of 10 formats and three installation options. Designers can install the shower tray flush to the flooi: directly over  tiles, or fitted on the floorwith a base that can be tiled. Futurion Flat  comes in three colours: White Alpine, Star White and Pergamon.

Vado has introduced a range of round and square bodytiles into its offering. The tiles have been created to provide a streamlined look and can be combined with a shower valve and shower head from the companys range. The bodytiles feature a tilting action on a 360° axis and therefore can be directed into different positions. Flush-mounted to the wall, the tiles have been designed to provide a modern twist on the traditional style body jets which protrude from the wall.

The Simply Black Collection of sanitaryware, has been  introduced by Imperial Bathrooms, featuring three of the company’s designs; Astoria Deco, Drift and Etoile. The collection spans basins in large, small and cloakroom options, bidets and pan and cisterns, available in close coupled, low, high level and wall- hung versions. Co-ordinating seats and levers also make up the collection, as well as complementary brassware.

Adding to the original Philippe Starck ‘barrel’ vanity, has now expanded the range to include rectangular and cylindrical options. In addition, Starck has also designed rectangular low cabinets to take a variety of console basins, including the latest tri-ovaI model. Completing the Starck Iine-up is a range of complementary mirrors and mirrored cabinets.

Waterfront Bathrooms launches new tap range

Spanning basin mixers, bath mixers, shower heads, slide bars and shower mixers, Waterfront Bathrooms has introduced Blade to its Signature range. The basin mixers are available as monobloc, two or three- hole versions and in deck or waII—mounted options. The bath mixers are available as wall or deck-mounted and in three or five hole options. Blade basin mixers can also be specified with infra-red technology.

As part of its Spring 2011 launch, Utopia Bathroom Group introduced four furniture concepts, including Symmetry. It is based on a series of curved pieces that can be displayed wall-hung, fitted wall-to-wall or as a freestanding option. The range also features two basins, a Gelcast undermounted or ceramic inset model, plus a curved bath with optional storage cabinet, curved bath screen and a choice of co-ordinating mirrors.

Extending its modular furniture collection, Shades Bathrooms has added Aspen to its collection. The range includes a wash station, available with a single or double drawer configuration and in 600 or 900mm widths, as well as two WC units. ln addition, Aspen comprises of a tower unit, double mirrored wall units, a wall-mounted rotating cabinet and a halo mirror.

Matki has extended its EauZone Plus range with the addition of the 3-Sided Sliden Available in all sizes from 1200mm to 1800mm, as well as made-to-measure, the enclosure features 10mm safety glass. The 3 Sided Slider has been designed to open up bathroom layout possibilities without the need for designs to be in a corner or recess. The doors slide on a polished stainless steel track.

Dovcor reveal new range of bathroom storage

Dovcor offers a range of bathroom storage from Dove Furniture, including the Oena Floor Unit. The vanity unit comes in a choice of three sizes, 500, 600 and 700mm options. Oena Floor Unit comes in Chateau Oak and is complemented by a Wall-Hung Unit, 300 Floor Unit, 300 Wall Cabinet and Bath Panel, all of which boast a 10-year guarantee.

Designed by Gianpiero Castagnoli and manufactured by Stella, Alchemy Design Award has extended the Firenze series to include an overhead showen shower controls and shower/ bath filler The range features a distinctive octagonal motif which has been inspired by the Roman architecture in Florence. The Firenze series claims to couple exquisite detailing with no compromise fabrication techniques.

The importance of whirlpool bathing to V people’s wellbeing

We are living in an area characterised by great haste, speed and complexity. Everyone is expected to deliver maximum performance at all times. Hence, more and more people are looking into health- related issues. There is now a clear tendency towards individualised healthcare: Everyone is in charge of his or her own health and looking for possibilities to maintain or improve it by getting actively involved. The need to find peace and to relax increases simultaneously. People want to have solutions in the immediate environment they live in, so the bathroom does play an ever more important role in their lives. lt has always been considered a place of retreat, but now people are discovering that it can be a place for the active promotion of healthy lifestyles. Taking a bath has numerous positive effects on the body and on the human psyche.

As soon as you stretch out in the tub, a relaxing response is triggered. Because of the lift the water gives us, we feel unusually light in the waten  This also brings relief to our joints. When you are taking a full tub bath, the hydrostatic pressure triggers a counter reaction in the body: The blood flow is redistributed, your heart rate increases and your metabolism is activated. As the water touches the skin, it increases the blood circulation and causes the muscles to relax. Whirling motions further enhance the positive effects of taking a full tub bath. For instance, the heat absorption is improved if you take a whirl bath at temperatures of above 36°C. The whirl bath also moves the sensual hair on the skin and a soothing sensation is communicated to the body.

Thanks to the movement of the waten tension and relaxation are perceived more effectively. The receptors are triggered just as they would be during a massage, which causes relaxing hormones to be secreted. The circulation of blood to the skin is simultaneously improved, which causes the muscle to relax so that it is possible to even reduce aches and pains. Because the scrubbing motions that cleanse the skin are more intense in a whirlpool bath than in a normal tub bath, the skin’s appearance improves too.

Top of the whirlpool

With lifestyles moving at an ever-faster pace, it’s really no surprise that consumers need to take time out of their busy schedule to relax. Spa retreats have become a UK obsession, with top UK hotels and even business lounges at airports offering a choice of relaxing treatments. Now  consumers are demanding similar therapeutic benefits in the home.

UK marketing manager for Kaldewei, Lois Paffett comments: “According to the Rheingold Institute, consumers want a spa environment in the comfort of their own home. What better way than to incorporate their bath with hydrotherapy?” And managing  director of Reva Industries, manufacturer of Airbath and l Appollo brands, Gary Stevens, agrees: “In these stressful times, building in ‘me time’ is really [ important for general wellbeing and coming home from a busy day » to detox in a hydrotherapy bath is i a great tonic for everyone!”

Spas bolster sales

It has meant a steady growth of whirlpool sales for bathroom designers and retailers who work in the premium sector of the market. As Dave Tutton, commercial and marketing director of Jacuzzi UK, highlights: “The market forjetted baths is growing at a very steady and healthy rate”.

And Russell Barnes, marketing manager for Laufen, agrees but adds that renewed consumer confidence will help all levels of the market. Hesays: “The top end ofthe sector has proved slightly more resilient than the bottom end ofthe market. At the entry level, where whirlpools can be bought for as little as £250, consumers on a budget have questioned whether they really need such an aspirational product. As consumer confidence returns, we can expect to see renewed growth at both ends of the market, as people seek out added wellbeing products for their bathroom.” However; Dave Tutton is keen to point out: “Retailers should stress the importance of investing in a quality, well-made product over cheaper alternatives.”

Lights, music, action!

Certainly at the quality-end ofthe  bathroom market is where technological innovation tends to start. And it’s certainly no different for whirlpool and spa baths. Manufacturers have created a raft of models, with well-thought out features, to create holistic bathing dreams and capture consumers’ minds and wallets. Underwater lighting has been joined by music, as desirable features while bathing, with sensor electronic controls and remote control for ease of operation. Russell Barnes of Laufen, says: “Chromatherapy, which uses coloured lighting, is a desirable feature that consumers love and retailers need to embrace. Built-in music systems are another exciting growth area, incorporating all the latest digital technology.”

While Dave Tutton points out: “Remote control technology is also significant to this market. By investing in a high-spec, high-tech whirlpool bath, that comes with a remote control, the user can _ select from various hydro~massage experiences, depending on their mood or desire at the time. However; Barnes suggests the future of controls is heading towards touch-sensors. He continues: “Advanced controls are an exciting area of development. Laufen has pioneered an excellent system based on touch-sensitive sensors, whereby the control panel is integrated flush to the bath rim.”

Hygiene and hotels

However, it’s not only theaesthetics ofthe bath that designers and retailers must embrace, but they should also understand the hygiene implications of whirlpools. Managing director of custom- made hydrotherapy bath manufacturer Design & Form, Tony Pontin, suggests: “lt is important that designers embrace real technological improvements, such as integrated drainage (which means that the system completely drains when switched off); integral heaters that blow dry the wet pipes to prevent the growth of potentially harmful micro-organisms; and electronic controls that govern the pulsing of the water/air jets.”

It is particularly true for those working with the hotel market, where they may want a hydromassage bath for a luxury room or suite. Lois Paffett believes this to be a growing sector for hydrotherapy bath sales: “Historically hotels shied away from these systems, due to the hygiene and maintenance factor: But now with systems which work without pipes and from individual motors, there is no residual water left in the system as the jets just empty themselves, reducing the need for disinfection. Having individual motors allows for easy maintenance, so a hotel room wouldn’t be out of use for an extensive period of time.”

Trade up tubs

But for those dealing with Mr and Mrs Smith, rather than the speciher of Sofitel, encouraging whirlpool sales is about getting the customer to trade up. Marketing manager of Roca, Georgina Spencer, says: “People may wrongly assume that hydrotherapy products are so expensive they can’t afford them which is not necessarily true. lf retailers and designers know the product they can then educate their customers — so for only extra investment, a customer can upgrade to something very special and luxurious. While Dave Tutton takes it one step further by suggesting retailers quiz their customer on their lifestyle, not just on their pocket: “Retailers [and designers] should really make the effort to get to know the customers and their lifestyles. Ask about their daily routine, occupation and hobbies to get a feel for how a whirlpool bath could benefit them and their ‘ family.

For fast-paced, hectic lifestyles, a daily soak in a whirlpool bath can work wonders. And, if possible, let them test the ‘ product out in the showroom. It’s all about the experience they get. This can often be the key to swaying a customer’s decision.” Certainly all industry experts agree that the hydrotherapy market will continue to show signs of steady growth. Despite the backdrop of challenging sales, designers and retailers who can show and sell the benefits of hydrotherapy baths will profit from these aspirational, well- being products.