Slovenian appliance producer Gorenje says its SmarTable is for users who can afford to live unconventionally. Gorenje Design Studio director Jurij Giacomelli earlier said the appliance’s “fundamental value lies in the act of ‘liberating’ the refrigerator from the direct environment of the kitchen.” The refrigerated compartment raises up from inside the table to allow access to food items.
Nobody knew if it would work—adding an appliance show to IFA, the leading European consumer electronics show in Berlin, August 29 to September 3, 2008.
But the naysayers seem to have been proven wrong: exhibitors and attendees alike were pleased, the halls in the appliance section of the expo were almost as full as the halls filled with flat-screen TVs, and the huge retailer areas were buzzing with business. It makes one realize how effective a major trade fair can be at boosting spirits and gaining attention.
“We are happy to see that consumers and retailers clearly decided to come here, and make time for appliances too,” said a Siemens brand representative. “We can really demonstrate our products and show our own enthusiasm.”
A Miele spokesperson said he questioned consumers in the appliance halls about their intentions at IFA. As many as half came to check out appliances as well as consumer electronics. Most European retailers also expressed a preference for adding appliances to the CE trade fair, as they usually combine white and brown goods in their stores. Another possible sign of success: the trend of decreasing attendance at IFA reversed in 2008 according to early organizer reports of around 200,000 visitors.
The Industry in Europe
So how is the general situation in Europe? Some appliance OEMs at IFA expressed the view that Europe has not had as much of a credit crisis as the United States and consumer spending is healthier. Only in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain are the housing markets slow or in recession, mostly due to former excessive growth.
In many regions, cooking appliance sales are trending firmly upward, with high-end cooking (as seen on TV) quite en vogue. Induction cooking with high-end user interfaces is selling well.
The overarching trend in the European industry—and quite apparent at IFA—is energy efficiency. Most of IFA’s white goods product introductions focused on the energy-saving theme. One high-profile introduction was the new heat pump dryer from BSH under its Siemens and Bosch brands. Not only is it more energy-efficient than other heat pump dryers, it also has an important new feature: automatic cleaning of the heat exchanger. It is no secret that many consumers forget—or else really hate—cleaning the exchanger, resulting in longer drying times and operating problems.
Also on exhibit from BSH was a prototype freezer that is designed with vacuum insulation panels, resulting in about half of the previous power use. The exhibit was intended to help gauge the market’s willingness to pay the premium price.
Miele exhibited another important energy-saving feature for laundry appliance: dual-water-inlet washers. Dual inlets are common in the United States, but Europeans have always used built-in electric heating for washers and dishwashers, facilitated by the higher voltage (220 V) ac electrical current common in European homes. Miele also showed off its new heat pump dryers and new dishwashers using only 8 L of water per cycle, better than the current 10-L minimum. Miele’s new MasterCool refrigerator line was on display and looked normal size by U.S. side-by-side refrigerator standards—but to Europeans they may seem quite huge.
For several years, Electrolux’s premium AEG brand was the only brand with heat pump dryers. Now comes a new washer line using 10–20% less energy along with a decreased noise level. New large refrigerators are designed with 0°C drawers and now have an A+ energy class instead of A. Improved steam dryers went from class C to B, and to a lower sound level (from 62 to 57 dB).