GE Appliances has identified six trends that it sees as dominant in the Appliance industry in the United States.
Trend No. 1: Stainless steel faces competition as an appliance finish.
Stainless steel has been the one of the most-sought-after appliance finishes in the last 20 years, and it remains very popular. GE points to the 2011 Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers Color Report, which put the stainless steel's share of the market at 35%.
Still, consumer research by GE showed that some consumers are interested in stainless steel alternatives.
GE launched a new finish in the third quarter of 2012 to address this consumer need. The Slate finish is described as a warm, grey, low-gloss metallic hue. First-year sales results seem to confirm that the new finish has consumer appeal. "We have more than doubled our initial sales goals," said Brian McWaters, brand general manager for GE Appliances.
GE is doubling its product offerings in the Slate finish, with the launch of new refrigeration and cooking models.
Trend No. 2: Traditional kitchen design looses its pre-eminence.
GE noted that Traditional kitchen design was the most popular design style in kitchen remodels since the first National Kitchen and Bath Association annual survey of designers--until the most recent survey results, released early in 2013.
The most recent NKBA survey found that Transitional design styles replaced Traditional as the most popular.
Transitional style is a blend of Traditional and Contemporary styles, creating a modern yet classic look. The design style uses simpler lines than traditional but is more elaborate than Contemporary. To complement the trend, GE this summer launched a new appearance for appliances sold under its GE and GE Profile brands.
Trend No. 3: Connectivity.
In 2007 Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the phone was more than a communication tool; it was a way of life. By 2012 a Google study found that 26% of U.S. smartphone owners would rather give up their computer than their smartphone. GE is addressing this trend with a growing array of smart appliances. Its new wall ovens offer connectivity and can notify users, by their smartphone, when cooking is complete.
Trend No. 4: American-Made.
A May 2013 Gallup Poll survey found that six in 10 Americans would pay more for products that are made in American.
At the same time, the cost of manufacturing in America is becoming more competitive. Labor costs are rising in China; incentives are helping reduce costs to produce products in the United States. An increasing number of companies are re-shoring manufacturing--moving manufacturing back to the United States.
In the appliance industry, GE is one of the most high-profile examples of this movement. It launched a series of initiatives in 2011 to expand its appliance manufacturing base in the United States.
A total of $1 billion is being invested by the corporation to expand existing U.S. appliance plants (including some that had been slated for closure). New manufacturing facilities have been opened at GE's Appliance Park manufacturing campus in Louisville, KY--the first major manufacturing facilities opened on the site in 50 years.
Among the new manufacturing facilities:
* French door refrigerator manufacturing.
* Production of the GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater, the first water heater to meet 2014 U.S. energy efficiency standards for water heaters. The earliest GeoSprings were made in China; now all the water heaters are produced in the U.S. plant.
* Front-load, high-efficiency washing machine production. New U.S. manufacturing capacity is designed to supplant appliances that had been sourced for years out of Wuxi, China.
Trend No. 5: Ergonomically friendly appliances for an aging population.
There were 39.6 million people age 65 and older in the United States in 2009; by 2030 there will be 72.1 million. All kinds of consumer products will need to adapt in order to address the specific needs of this growing market segment.
GE said it is address the declining range-of-motion issues of older Americans with its new front-load laundry pair, designed to help reduce the strain of loading and unloading the washing machine. The RightHeight Design laundry pair uses the largest openings in the industry and the a Built-in Riser to minimize bending and long reaches.
Trend No. 6: Illumination--LED winning out.
Energy-efficient LEDs are being used more often in kitchen design, while usage of compact fluorescent lights is waning. The 2012 National Bath and Kitchen Association survey in 2012 found that 70% of kitchen designers specified LED lighting. LED use is also growing in appliances.
GE pointed out that its GE Cafe French door refrigerator has colored LED lights in the drawers to serve as visual cues of the temperature chosen. Industry-first notification lighting can also be found on GE's latest wall ovens.
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