The idea of ‘less is more’ seems to have made its nest within the current trends and the shower tray world hasn’t missed the chance to lay its eggs. As trays become slimmer and sleeker, some as low as 15mm, it puts forward the argument of whether, ultimately, there will be a compromise between form and function? Or will sales of low profile trays drive the shower tray market, eventually disappearing into bathroom floors, fully concealed and fully functioning?
The current economic climate has struggled to take control over the shower tray market, with many manufacturers describing a strong growth over the last two years. Sandra Hyde, marketing manager from Aqualux, says: “The sales of white shower trays have remained strong over the past two years.”
Michael Sammon, sales and marketing director at Frontline Bathrooms, agrees: “Our shower tray sales have been increasing year-on-year” The wet room trend takes some responsibility for the popularity increase in minimalist trays and continued growth in sales.
Pete Mills, sales and marketing director for Aquaplus Solutions, explains: “Due to the increased popularity in wet room- style showers, trays have sold well over the last couple of years’ and Loraine Henderson, marketing director for Roman Showers, agrees with this idea: “Confidence in low-level tray options from retailer and consumers alike has dramatically increased sales.”
Overlooking the significance
Sometimes overlooked, the strong sales in shower trays display its importance in the purchasing of a showering environment. Twyford Bathrooms’ product manager for showering, Sabine Tawfik says: “The tray is absolutely fundamental to the bathroom design process because it is the foundation of the environment. lt is often overlooked and the shiny enclosures often get most of the focus.”
David Savage, general manager for Heritage Bathrooms, agrees: “The shower tray is usually the last thing they consider but it is still very important” Also emphasising the importance of the tray is Russell Barnes, sales director of Laufen, who comments: “The shower tray is an integral part of the overall showering purchase.” And john Schoheld, sales and marketing director for them, also believes: “The tray is the foundation for the entire shower installation.”
Slim and Sleek
As its importance becomes more apparent, the choices available become significantly larger However, like with many choices, there is usually a favourite. Sandra Hyde says: “Generally the most popular shower trays are slim and white.”
Pete Mills agrees: “Shower trays must be slim, sleek and unobtrusive. White is still the most popular colour by far” As does Michael Hoyne, chairman of Merlyn: “Shower trays are all veering for minimalist or low profiIe.” In regards to size and materials, larger trays and stone resin have made their mark. John Schofield says: “The sleek contemporary look is increasingly more popular Larger-sized trays are also increasing.” And Sabine Tawlik comments: “Stone resin remains the most popular material in the UK. There is a definite trend towards larger rectangle trays and no doubt low-level trays are more popular than ever”
Form over function
However; whilst the slim trays are currently a clear winnen Sabine Tawfik adds: “This is not always the practical choice. The technical environment and functionality need to be considered first and foremost.” And David Savage agrees: “Designs that use little material — like a level entry tray — become more challenging with concrete floors.” He continues: “This can be relatively easy to overcome with minor construction of false floors and p|inths.” Ross Nixon, head of design at Matki, says: “When choosing a shower tray of less than 40mm, it is important that there is an efficient drainage system to avoid fIooding.” But Sandra Hyde explains: “The latest slimline shower trays have wastes with advanced draining systems to ensure that excess water doesn’t leak over into the bathroom.” And john Schofield agrees: “Due to the advances in design, trays can be fitted flat to the floor where possible, and on legs where access to the waste is required.”
Low profile trays are now available in 20mm and 30mm options, so what will it mean for the previous 40mm standard? David Savage says: “40mm is still a magical number for standard low profile trays. A tray of 20mm wouldnlt provide sufficient fall to drain effectively unless the tray was very small.” And Ross Nixon agrees: “The continental 40mm shower tray has sufficient height to retain water whilst showering. A flat tray 30mm or less will allow water to spread beyond the tray area and are therefore better suited to wet ro0ms.” However Pete Mills comments: “While 40mm trays still sell, low- Ievel and flush-fitted designs are proving to be a very very popular choice currentIy.” And Russell Barnes adds: “The depth of the shower tray is definitely reducing and at a rapid rate.”
Factors to consider
Therefore, whilst a popular choice, the low profile trays require certain factors to be taken into consideration. Michael Sammon says: “There are three key things when specifying a shower tray; shower tray sizes, location of the shower and the overall design.” Georgina Spencen marketing manager of Roca, says: “Specification of the floor and diainage are key considerations. Available space, individual needs of the usen budget, colours, surface material and maintenance access required” should also be considered by the retailer or designer when specifying a shower tray. And John Schoheld adds: “The tray should have a 90mm waste and be made of a double skin construction, as well as having acrylic on the top, there should be one on the base.”
According to the managing director of Showerlux, Bob Bowler: “A shower tray can make or break the overall look and feel of the bathroom” Therefore, in regards to encouraging customers to trade up in their shower tray specihcation, quality seems to be the key factor Michael Hoyne suggests: “Encourage customers to buy a tray which will offer longevity, constructed from a higher specified material.” While Sandra Hyde comments: “Most consumers are concerned about the shower being water tight so it is very simple to explain that this is not an area to skip on quality.” And Pete Mills adds: “Quality is a must. Retailers must stress the importance ofinvesting in a well- made quality product that won’t crack or weather over time.”
While a opinion widely-held is that low profile trays will continue to dominate the market, there are also number of ideas for the future of trays. David Savage thinks: “We will see more colours to blend in with tiles and flooring.” Ross Nixon says: “We see a continuing trend towards larger shower trays and showers as wet rooms. Designers will specify shower trays set into the floor” Russell Barnes adds: “The low level shower tray is very much here to stay and this market will develop further, with trays that are virtually invisible.”
For Loraine Henderson: “Lighting and low level specifications, colour and finishes will play a key role in tray design over the next few years.” And Sabine Tawfik suggests: “A move towards floor level trays, which is actually just a continuation of the floor with no step up at all.” So invisible, brighter and more colourful is a reasonable prediction for the future of the shower tray then.