Will it all come out in the wash?

By Jess Brunette February 01, 2015 Major appliances

Consumer confidence in the laundry category remains strong, but the way New Zealanders do their laundry is changing. Will this affect which laundry products do well in future? Jess Brunette reports.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in Wares magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

The last 12 months has been stable-to-strong for players in the laundry category, with New Zealanders continuing to seek the right balance between cost and convenience when washing, drying and ironing their clothes.

Looking at the numbers, Roy Morgan Single Source data from November 2013 to October 2014 shows 5.4% of New Zealanders (194,000 people) intend to purchase a washing machine or dryer in the next 12 months, while in the previous 12 months, 9.1% of New Zealanders (330,000 people) actually purchased a laundry item. 

In terms of how Kiwis made the choice as to which model to buy, for providing product information, 35.8% of New Zealanders (almost 1.3 million people) said catalogues were most useful, closely followed by the internet at just over 35%. 

And, once they’re actually in-store, price remains the most important factor (79.7%), followed by range of products (60.7%) and service (59.7%).

 

LAUNDRY IS MOVING INSIDE

In terms of laundry habits, Canstar Blue has some useful data with a survey on laundry habits (see sidebar at the bottom of this article) showing that the New Zealand population is continuing to move laundry inside to save time and effort. 

I asked Samsung’s Jon Barrell if he has seen any correlation between the decrease in the number of washing lines reported by the Canstar Blue survey and sales of higher end heat pump and condenser dryers.

“We’ve certainly seen very strong growth in dryers. We’ve had a relatively small range but that is growing and – based on feedback from the trade – it should be very successful. So I think as people get a little more money to spend they will opt for those condenser heat pump dryers and obviously get the benefits of those in terms of energy use and convenience, the obvious one being for apartment living where they don’t need to be vented."

John Barrell also points out that having a matching dryer and washer is now a key solution for many consumers. This may be a contributing factor for the continued uptake of front loading machines with matching front loading washer and dryer sets appealing to space conscious and aesthetically minded apartment dwellers in particular. 

 

FRONT LOADERS KEEP COMING

Speaking for Fisher & Paykel and Haier, Jacqui Christopher reports an excellent 12 months in the laundry category, with front loaders continuing to draw attention in-store.

“Overall we saw a lift in the market for laundry products with both F&P and Haier outperforming expectations in 2014.  F&P saw our new front loader washing machines become well established and clearly front of mind with consumers, while Haier saw good growth in our top load washing machines in 2014 as our brand becomes better recognised and accepted with consumers and dealers.”

Front loaders, while still not reaching the saturation of the top loading machines, the long time Kiwi choice, are definitely taking more market share with other players as well.

Closely shadowing Roy Morgan Single Source data that shows 4.9% of New Zealanders purchased a top loader compared to 2.6% who purchased a front loader, Electrolux’s Stefan Knoesen reports a 40:60 split between front and top loaders for the past year as mid to high end consumers who place a high priority on the care of their clothes, cotton on to the benefits of the front loader. 

“Front loaders definitely have a place in the market and I would say there are more front loaders in any store you go into now and consumers are definitely getting onto understanding what front loaders do in terms of saving you money in the long run in water and electricity. 

“But your average New Zealander still just wants to chuck the clothes in at the top and get it going. And especially in Auckland people are busy, so features wise one thing that is standing out is a quick washing machine.”

For Samsung, high-end, feature-rich front loaders have been the company’s sweet spot for laundry in the last year. I asked Jon Barrell what features had gone down well with consumers.

“Our digital inverter motor technology has been the most important driver so people are really confident about buying something with a 10-year warranty, good reliability and less noise that performs really well overall,” he explains.

“On top of performance, we have also seen more focus on design and we have seen really good sales of our Crystal Blue range including the 9000 flagship model but also the 8000 and 7000 underneath that which have seen very strong sales with the big porthole, slightly raised door, and 170° opening – all key features that have stood out and created some awareness and buzz in the channel that has translated to sales.”

 

WHAT ABOUT IRONING?

Unless you are a fan of drip-dry clothes, the laundry doesn’t end once you take the load out of the dryer.

When asked about the state of New Zealand’s ironing market, Sunbeam’s Cliff Carr reports a static, to moderately declining, category and suggests there are some uniquely New Zealand reasons for this. 

“New Zealanders are pretty unusual consumers when it comes to spending time in the laundry. Everybody around the world hates ironing but most developed countries want to buy the best product they can so they can spend the least amount of time doing it.”

Carr compares New Zealand’s average iron price of $42 to France’s €190 (around $300) to illustrate his point; a huge disparity for a purchase made every 5-6 years. “We have one of the lowest average sale prices for irons in the developed world,” Carr says.

Kiwis’ hatred of ironing can be seen in a recent survey by Canstar Blue (see sidebar on page 49) which shows nearly 40% of those surveyed using their dryer to remove wrinkles instead of an iron, with many admitting they had actually ruined clothes in the dryer. 

Still, there is hope for this area to pick itself up, says Cliff Carr:

“Our ironing board business is quite strong and that’s quite a premium ironing board product, so there are a few consumers that understand there is merit in paying a little more for a decent laundry product. So instead of spending $39 on an ironing board, they are forking out $89 so that task will be considerably less arduous!”

Says Carr: “All we have to do now collectively as an industry is work on the iron itself!” He explains that innovation in the ironing category could be the answer to getting the attention of consumers and prompting them to step above the low end. 

There are of course irons currently in the market that combine features like constant all around steam and high quality hot plates to massively reduce ironing times. These remain premium products for New Zealand at the moment however, with price tags reaching the $400 mark, making them more of a leap than a step up from the bottom end.

Looking a bit further ahead, Cliff Carr hints that there are some product innovations on the horizon that could make ironing easier for the mid-market consumer but stresses that these will impact in the medium, rather than short term, future. 

 

THE FUTURE OF LAUNDRY

An innovation that is already in the market but far from standard is Wi-Fi connectivity, exemplified by Samsung’s Crystal Blue 9000 front loading washer. I asked Jon Barrell what response this feature had received so far. 

“I think it has caught on though it’s hard to put a measure on it. Samsung has made an aggressive move to add Wi-Fi connectivity to all our devices in the next five years and we bought a company called SmartThings and hope to be able to roll out that technology which includes sensors, smart connected plugs and motion detection.”

Is the smart home concept a reality in New Zealand, though?

“It’s difficult to tell at this stage but there has been more and more interest. People do use their smart phone as the control hub for so many things and the ability to use it for monitoring and controlling multiple aspects of the home is definitely an area of growth.”

Innovations like these do come at a price though (for now at least) and, while high-end items like heat pump condenser dryers, constant steam irons and connective washing machines may be the future for time and space starved Kiwis, there is still plenty of room for the mid-level items to do well in this space as long as the major players keep on eye on the horizon.  

 


 

KIWIS AND LAUNDRY – HOW DO WE DO IT?

Two surveys by Canstar Blue offer some revealing insights about the way Kiwis do their washing and drying. 

Women still bearing the brunt – The first study on laundry habits shows that New Zealand women are still doing the lion’s share (despite record numbers of women in the labour market), with 80% of women in the nationwide survey of 739 New Zealanders reporting they do the majority of washing in their household, compared to 59% of men.

Younger women fared slightly better but were still a long way from an equal division of laundry duties, says Derek Bonnar, Canstar New Zealand General Manager.

“Gen Y men do more laundry duty than their older counterparts, but it is still far less than Gen Y women. Data from Statistics New Zealand in 2010 showed that each day women spend an hour more than men on household chores. It doesn’t look like much has changed.”

In terms of how often, half of the New Zealanders surveyed say they wash more than 5 loads of laundry a week. In terms of how, it seems the economy of cold wash cycles is top of mind, with 60% of respondents taking this route, irrespective perhaps of the care the clothes require...

Topping the washing frequency stakes were Gen Xs – more likely to have young children – and those from Otago, with around 60% from each group washing 5 or more loads of laundry each and every week.

Is the time poor and efficiency minded consumer ruining their clothes? Around a third of the people surveyed said they ignored care labels and washed all clothes on the same setting, says Canstar’s Bonnar.

“While that might save time, it could prove to be a false economy and shorten the life of delicate garments. One in three surveyed say they have ruined clothing by mixing colours and whites in the wash.”

Another aspect of laundry that New Zealanders are falling short on is knowledge of scud. Bonnar explains exactly what scud is.

“It’s a greasy deposit that clings to the unseen parts of a washing machine, especially where a cold cycle is used. Blobs can break off and deposit on clothes. Scud can be scud-daddled by regular cleaning and running a clothes-free, hot wash cycle complete with detergent.”

 Scud often occurs as a reaction between detergents and laundry softeners.

 

Washing lines a thing of the past?

Canstar’s second survey reports that a quarter of New Zealanders no longer have an outside washing line, which is a massive 100% increase on the previous year. Says Derek Bonnar:

“This is a trend right across the board, affecting almost every age group and every region in New Zealand. Auckland and Bay of Plenty survey respondents report the greatest decline in outside washing lines, and across the generations Gen Ys and Gen Xs are far more likely to be living in a property that has dispensed with an outside line.

“How we live is changing, reflecting larger homes in proportion to section sizes, a preference for aesthetics, apartment living and a possibly a realisation that an outdoor clothesline for some people is not an effective use of space when backyards are shrinking.”

It seems that convenience, rather than just available space, is another big factor – although nearly 75% of people still own a washing line, increasing numbers choosing the dryer over their washing line. 

“Dryers are incredibly convenient; especially when it seems like the rain will never stop. While more than half say their dryer is too expensive to run often, a sizeable proportion could save simply by hanging clothes outside.

“Aucklanders’ tendency to opt for the dryer has more than doubled in the past 12 months, and to a lesser degree, every other region has followed suit. Across the age groups only Baby Boomers have managed to restrict their dryer use, with Gen Y and Gen X’s use of dryers rising significantly.”

With time, effort and space all major factors in this trend – as well as 45% reporting ruining clothes in the dryer - higher end dryers may become increasingly attractive for consumers , which could be good news for some in the channel.

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