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Looking at the past year Tony de Ruiter of Clearlite and Athena describes the company’s performance modestly at first as “pretty good” but admits that in areas like the Lower North island and some key spots in the provinces, sales have been “exceptional”.
Winners for de Ruiter have been new Italian made Athena LED mirrors, particularly in round shapes.
These units include built in demisters and “almost seamless” LED perimeters that offer warm or bright light options. With the traditional option to install separate lighting above mirrors the all-in-one ease of these models has been well received.
The true standout for Athena and Tony de Ruiter has been in its back to wall freestanding baths that have shown “phenomenal percentage growth” in the last year.
He explains that, while people loved the look of some of Athena’s oval shaped true freestanding baths, people were trying to squeeze these models into tighter spaces than they were really designed for.
A compromise was made with the back-to-wall units with models released in either left, right or centre of wall options. These have all taken off with consumers keen on their look but also the installation practicalities these units offer.
“The benefit of these models is that you can just put them where a normal bath would go and they are really clean and easy to install. So while the actual purchase price for the bath is considerably more than for a traditional drop-in model, you don’t need your builder to do a lot a whole lot of framing out, or to tile the face of it and they have gone exceptionally well for us,” de Ruiter says.
For the year ahead, Tony de Ruiter is quietly confident that a new range of smaller footprint bathrooms from the Clearlite brand could do well in the Auckland market.
Part of this range includes new and improved three panel sliding showers whose space friendly design he believes will be well received by the market.
Looking at the bigger picture, Tony de Ruiter, like many of his peers, is concerned that the capacity of our labour force could put a cap on growth for the market.
“It will also be interesting to see how the government will magic-wand-up extra people to do the extra houses that they’re promising with KiwiBuild,” de Ruiter says.
COMPOSITES ON THE COMEBACK
One player who’s more hopeful the KiwiBuild scheme will generate business for the category – particularly for the recently stalled apartment projects in Auckland – is Burns & Ferrall Product Manager Jeff Busbridge.
Burns & Ferrall had already been doing a fair amount of projects with Housing New Zealand before the change of Government and he has found that relationship “has definitely driven certain categories”.
Regarding its overall business in 2017, he reports that while Burns & Ferrall is definitely up on the previous year, its growth was a little under what he expected. Areas that performed well were the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions with Auckland showing moderate growth.
So what has products have done well for Burns & Ferrall? “Our composite sinks are just going nuts” says Jeff Busbridge.
“There’s definitely a move away from stainless steel for the composites as they retain their appearance, are durable and look great. We are around looking at around 250% on sales of composites on last year so it’s quite phenomenal growth.”
He explains that the company, noticing renewed interest in this category started to expand its offering, an investment that certainly paid off.
Advances in materials have helped as well, indeed Jeff Busbridge recalls the composites of the 1980s that fell out of favour with New Zealand consumers once they faded in our harsh UV light.
IXL MAKES A TRIUMPHANT RETURN
While composites are making a welcome return, another player that used to be ubiquitous in New Zealand bathrooms is also back with a vengeance.
Two years ago IXL returned to our shores after a long absence in our market then released new bathroom extraction models a year later.
IXL Appliances' General Manager Wayne Gosling explains some of the company’s recent developments.
“What’s different now is that we’re doing it ourselves. Me and my team are on the ground here in New Zealand and the market has probably grown if anything over the last five years because we’ve seen a huge increase in the building industry and people are wanting more quality in their bathrooms, ensuites, laundries and toilets than what they’ve been able to get in the past,” he says.
Returning to a market where you haven’t been a major player for some time is never easy but Wayne Gosling reports that IXL has getting great support from both trade and retail partners in the past 12 months, including Bunnings, Mitre 10, PlaceMakers, JA Russell and Coreys.
Gosling and IXL’s biggest challenge here however is to continue to push awareness of the brand and its premium selling points so that retailers can stand by it on the shop floor.
“People have only been used to what they’ve got, so it’s a matter of getting in front of them and getting them confident in the range because it’s not cheap but it’s been priced to how it looks and how it works,” he says.
The next 12 months will be important ones for the IXL brand and Wayne Gosling is excited to be launching a raft of new Tastic Neo ranges over this period. He admits that he is not in an easy position coming back into a very different market from the one IXL operated in in its heyday, but is confident that New Zealand is ready for IXL to make a full return.
“For now it’s about getting in front of as many retailers as we can to really build that confidence in the market and say ‘New Zealand now has a good, better, best scenario’. And there are a few different companies out there working in that same market but there is room for each of us. So this market is in no way near saturated,” he says.
With new products, new players and even a new Government in play, the wet areas category will be one to watch this year.
Clearlite: getting better all the time
In May Clearlite Bathrooms will release a 2018/19 product catalogue showcasing its largest collection of updated and new products to date.
Some of these changes include an increase in height for the Sierra and Millennium showers, additional size options and a three panel square sliding door configuration for the Cezanne.
All showers are now also fitted with a domed easy Clean Waste. Clearlite vanities will be available in a host of new, on-trend colour finishes as well as an Ultra Gloss White with acrylic laminate technology.
The Nikau is the latest introduction to Clearlite’s range of vanities and available in a variety of sizes and bowl configurations.
Customers will also have the option to combine a coloured finish with Ultra Gloss White fronts to produce a stylish contrast.
Moisture and mould begone!
Weiss’s new ER Series EC bathroom extraction fan is one of the smartest on the market.
Designed in New Zealand with the energy smart and health conscious consumer this extraction unit features an intelligent humidity control system that uses built in sensors to adjust humidity levels by controlling the level of air flow.
This keeps mirrors mist free, helps prevent mould, controls odours and extends the life of your bathroom interior finishes.
Despite constant monitoring, the unit is still economical, thanks to an EC fan that runs up to 60% more efficiently than conventional fan motors with the ability to run for long periods at very low speeds.
Cool but tough
A hugely popular product for Burns & Ferrall in the past year is the Italian made Elleci Composite Range of sinks. Composites of the 1980s stained easily and were prone to fading in New Zealand’s high UV light.
These concerns have been eliminated thanks to Burns & Ferrall’s use of modern granite and resin mixes that offer natural appearances along with high levels of resistance to heat, scratches and impacts.
Check out the wide range of styles, properties and benefits with the composite models offered at Burns & Ferrall.
Showering just got safer
The safety conscious will rejoice at the introduction of Methven’s new Safeflow temperature & flow regulator that maintains a stable showering temperature even with erratic hot and cold pressure.
It also eliminates the dangerous hot water spikes generated by toilet flushes or taps being turned on.
The Safeflow is operated by a single lever and uses a combination of a single lever cartridge and a thermostatic mixing valve to deliver a safe and constant temperature.
It also maintains a max temp of 45 degrees (a recommended safe maximum shower temp for children) and has been added to the list of Lifemark approved safety products.
Safeflow is available in Methven’s Aio, Waipori and Maku ranges.
It’s time to shower smarter
An interesting Kickstarter project that has picked up significant interest is the Livin Shower.
Billed as potentially the words smartest shower, Livin Shower is a DIY installable unit that integrates software and hardware to offer complete control of a shower with either a single touch or a voice command setting the shower flow to an ideal temperature.
Custom shower temperatures are set with the Livin Shower valve or a mobile app that allows up to 10 profiles to be set to meet the needs of all the family.
The use of auto pausing during start up and when washing hair for instance along with a temperature control algorithm means that the minimum of water and power are used when operating.
Livin Shower also offers a baby mode for safe infant showering, synchronisation with smart thermostats to auto adjust room temp before and after showering and can connect with Google Home, Amazon Echo and music apps like Spotify.