Industry Overview: UK Bathroom Sector

By Moira McCormick on April 8, 2016

The UK bathroom industry is booming, despite stiff competition from overseas manufacturers – and with the continued steady improvement in the UK economy and in the building and home improvement markets in particular, the future looks bright for this sector.

 

Overview

The market has seen a steady increase since 2013, following a comparatively volatile period in terms of market performance during the economic downturn, and the outlook for the UK bathroom products market in 2016 looks positive with good growth anticipated into the medium-longer term. By 2019, the market value is forecast to have increased by 14% compared to 2015. The downside continues to be a significant number of imports from low cost countries, particularly China, Egypt and Eastern Europe. These imports continue to account for a sizeable proportion of bathroom products sold in the UK, exposing the market to a high level of price competition.

The depth of the industry continues to expand as well – to include bathroom furniture and cabinets, tiles, accessories, worktops, lighting, mirrors, wallpaper, paints and radiators. The bathroom is the one room in the house that treads a fine line between practical and luxurious. It has to store all the toiletries of an entire household, deal with a flurry of activity during peak times of use, and still be a place to relax in a bath or shower. When a bathroom begins to look a bit tired, it's relatively easy to give it a bit of a TLC with fresh decoration and accessories – or go the whole hog with a replacement suite or an updated shower arrangement. Luxury or budget, there's a solution out there – and a manufacturer to supply just what's required.

 

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New bathrooms – and refurbs

With the recovery in the UK economy, the number of bathroom products installed in new housing has increased. This has particularly benefitted bath and sanitaryware sales, with the majority of new build homes having 2+ bathrooms and a cloakroom. The recent increase in consumer confidence levels has resulted in a growing number of homeowners looking to refurbish their property. This is particularly the case with people who have plenty of equity in their home or those with savings seeing it as a better way to make a return on their investment. Sustainability and water efficiency has also become a major concern with UK householders as they have become more aware of the environmental impact of components that make up their homes. As a result, water efficient bathroom products are in greater demand.

 

"Inclusive" bathroom solutions

Demand for ‘inclusive’ bathroom solutions is growing as the UK population ages and the subsequent number of people with disabilities increase. The trend towards ‘care in the community’ has resulted in increasing numbers of elderly and disabled people living at home, creating demand for accessible solutions that make the bathroom easier to use and also more functional. The trend towards ‘multigenerational living’ has also positively impacted on demand for ‘inclusive’ solutions that ‘future-proof’ bathroom areas used by all members of the family, irrespective of their age or physical ability. With an increasing UK population and a smaller average household size, there is a high proportion of houses, flats and apartments with small bathrooms. Products such as compact wall-hung sanitaryware, slim-line wash basins, the space-saving shower baths and short-projection furniture etc. are increasingly popular.

 

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What does the future hold?

In terms of future prospects, minimalist styles will remain popular with more focus on the overall finished look providing an ordered, clutter-free environment. Demand for better quality bathroom products with additional features is expected to increase. Modern, digital and advanced technology will also become more important as consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits of digital wireless control and also of the ‘smart home’ concept. The bathroom products market will continue to fragment and the number of own-label products, often sold via the internet, is likely to increase. Competition from non-UK suppliers is also likely to grow as they develop their own concepts and designs rather than providing copies of existing products. In addition, pricing pressures are likely to remain intense due to significant levels of imported products and the growing number of competitive distribution channels such as the internet, DIY multiples and multiple retailers.

Bathrooms already make good use of technology developments, with LED lighting in ceilings, mirrors, taps and showers, and smart toilets, ultrasonic toothbrushes, heated floors and advanced personal care products already commonplace. There will of course be more change in the coming years.

 

Predictions for the bathroom of 2025

  • Thumbprint recognition systems will enable instant personalisation of lighting and entertainment systems

  • Wall and floor tiles will act as flat panel speakers as well as displays

  • Smart Mirrors will provide health checks and advise on your makeup

  • Special floor tiles or rugs could replace the bathroom scales

 

Predictions for the bathroom of 2040

  • 3D printed bathroom fittings to allow perfect customisation and advanced materials will be available that can change shape, so that toilet seats or baths can adapt to the shape of the user

  • Makeup will have evolved to smart makeup. Applications could include the ability to see how one's face will look using different colours / shades before application using a video mirror

  • Robots may also feature, not only for cleaning and tidying but also for massaging, bathing or applying high precision makeup and nail varnish

  • Air conditioning will add aromas and negative ions while removing odours, bacteria and pollen, and even include laser zapping of flies and mosquitos

 

Key companies

Ambiance Bain, Aqualona Products, Argos, Armitage Shanks, B&Q, BathEmpire.com, Bathrooms International, Bathstore, BCG, Be Modern, Bemis, Bette GmbH & Co, BHL, Bristan Group, Bronte Whirlpools, Carron Bathrooms, Castello Baths, Claytan Group, Cooper Callas, CP Hart, Crosswater, Croydex Group, Duravit, Eurobath, F&P Wholesale, Frontline Bathrooms, Grafton Group, Graham, Grohe, Hansgrohe, Heat and Plumb, Heritage Bathrooms, Homebase, Homestyle, Ideal Bathrooms, Ideal Standard, Imperial Bathroom Company, Intatec, Jacuzzi UK, John Lewis, Kaldewei UK, Kohler UK, Laufen, Lecico, Mark Two, Masco, Mereway Bathrooms, Metalkris, Methven UK, Montrose Furniture, Myson, Next, Pegler Yorkshire, Pioneer Bathrooms, PJH Group, Plumbworld, Porcelanosa UK, RAK Ceramics UK, Renaissance Baths, Reva Industries, Ripples, Roca, Roper Rhodes, Saint-Gobain Group, Samuel Heath, San Lamere UK, Sanitec, Screwfix, Shades Bathrooms, Svedburgs, Symphony, Tavistock Bathrooms, TCL Manufacturing, Thomas Dudley, Toto, Travis Perkins, Trojan Plastics, Twyford Bathrooms, Ultra Finishing, Utopia, Vado, Victoria & Albert, VictoriaPlum, Villeroy & Boch, VitrA UK, Wirquin, Zehnder Group UK.

 

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Conclusion

The trend to improve one's home doesn't appear to be waning any time soon – and as most people seem to have increasing amounts of disposable income, they show no signs of cutting back on home improvement projects big or small. The bathroom is one room where even small improvements can be made to enhance the lifestyle of the household – both in aesthetic and efficiency terms – and the growing bathroom industry in the UK seems to be well placed to cater for all tastes and budgets despite heavy competition from abroad.

 

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