Nowhere in Europe is the diversity more apparent than in small appliances, where there exists still many local habits, brands, and producers.
Dividing the small appliance market into personal care, home comfort, and food preparation, the margins in personal care are by far the most interesting. Shavers can cost up to EUR 150 (U.S. $150), where a basic vacuum cleaner can be bought for EUR 50 ($50). Even electric toothbrushes have been upgraded to medical appliances with corresponding price levels.
In shavers, two brands - Philips Electronics (the small appliance division) and Braun (a Gillette company) - lead the markets in Europe. Braun has been cited for inventing in the 1950s the modern, geometric-minimalist design for home appliances. Its shavers are the foil type and are sold worldwide.
While Braun is also the leader in toothbrushes and is strong in hair care and drip coffee makers, it has been challenged in the food processing category. BSH (Bosch/Siemens) decided years ago to increase its efforts in small appliances, and now has a separate small appliances division. It is determined to further boost its position, especially in motorized products.
The primary home comfort product is the vacuum cleaner, launched by Electrolux and originally sold door to door. In the premium segment white goods maker Miele and BSH (with the Siemens brand) dominate.
However, smaller, Japanese-made vacuums are also trendy, as is the bagless cleaner. English inventor James Dyson took the UK market by storm with his bagless design models, and competitors followed, with limited success in the UK. Another trend is the robot vacuum cleaner: the Elux Trilobite is actually for sale, while other brands just show prototypes.
In food preparation, the French dominate Europe. The largest company is Groupe SEB from Lyon. Its Tefal brand is famous for its cookware with a non-stick coating. Inspired by French food culture, SEB and Tefal were largely successful with products such as fryers and choppers. The addition of the Rowenta brand in 1988 gave the company an entry into German-speaking markets.
The French may be strong in cooking products, but BSH brand Bosch reportedly has the broadest product range in motorized products. It can boast that product development and production are all done in-house.
The coffee maker market is booming in Europe, and all categories flourish. Manufacturers of drip coffee makers have discovered that they can sell much more sophisticated designed products (for corresponding prices), as Philips proved with its Allessi-designed line. Siemens, as well, has been successful with its aluminum coffee maker designed by F.A. Porsche. Krups leads in the "normal," manual espresso makers, while the Swiss (Jura ) and the Italians lead in fully automatic (built-in grinders) machines. Philips has found a niche with its low-pressure, espresso-like coffee maker, which is said to be easy-to-use because it uses coffee pads.
Groupe SEB is said to be the largest European company in small electrics and is in the process of redeveloping its brands: Krups is another top brand, Rowenta is innovative with daring designs, Tefal is a middle range brand that will continue to combine cookware (non-electric) and electric appliances, and Moulinex is known for providing value-for-money products.
In terms of design, the modern, geometric design offered by German brands such as Braun, Krups, and Rowenta, is losing momentum against the more daring and colorful style from the French and from Philips.
This report is provided by Paul Roggema, European Correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine.