Little Wonders: why bathroom accessories are key design components, not just 'finishing touches'
Consumers are being seduced by the new wave of super-stylish accessories that are helping them inject individuality into their bathrooms
They may be small in size, but bathroom accessories are big business. After all, no bathroom is complete without a toilet roll holder, towel rail or mirror or two. And with the raft of striking finishes and eye-catching designs now available, accessories are no longer purely utilitarian, giving consumers the chance to bring personalisation and style into their bathrooms, too.
“Accessories are a crucial element in bathroom design. Practical and visually enriching, the right accessories can define the overall mood of the bathroom, injecting on-trend patterns or reflecting one’s individual styling,” says Angela Neve, Vado’s product and marketing director. Sofia Charalambous, creative, sales and marketing director at bathroom accessory specialist Bathroom Origins, is in complete agreement. “The importance of bathroom accessories can’t be overstated enough to the overall look and feel of the bathroom – they complete it.”
A classic look still works too, with oak finishes offering a timeless, British spa-esque look
For many consumers, however, these bathroom essentials still aren’t initially considered an integral part of their new design. Vado’s Neve believes that as investing in a new bathroom is a significant expense, consumers look to cut costs where they can, which often results in accessories being sacrificed.
According to a new report by MTW Research*, the last few years have seen sales of bathroom accessories increase by 20%. “Bathroom accessory sales via independent bathroom retailers will increase by 2.5% in 2020,” predicts MTW Research director Mark Waddy. By 2023, sales of bathroom accessories will hit £160m, the report says. “Consumers are increasingly using accessories to add a splash of colour or personalisation. This continues to underpin volume demand for products such as brushed nickel or chrome toilet roll holders and other fittings,” says Waddy.
“Despite great advancement in accessory design and the materials specified, accessories are often purchased after the bathroom refit is complete,” she says. Bathroom Origins’ Charalambous echoes her sentiments: “More and more consumers now plan bathroom accessories as part of their new bathroom but many still leave them as an afterthought.”
Manufacturers unanimously agree that the best way to change the consumer mindset is to stop talking about accessories as ‘finishing touches’ and to introduce them as key components alongside sanitaryware, furniture and brassware from the get-go. “It is up to retailers to work with manufacturers to promote the importance of fixtures and fittings in the early stages of the design process,” says Emma Wain, Armani Roca sales manager UK and Ireland. “We need to prove that bathroom accessories are not just aesthetic and that they can really bring something smart and beneficial to the bathroom space.”
By offering a complete package, the customer has everything they need to start using their new bathroom as soon as installation is complete
Accessory collections designed to complement bigger ticket items help, too. “By offering a complete package, the customer has everything they need to start using their new bathroom as soon as installation is complete,” comments Kelly Everest, marketing communications at GROHE UK.
Perrin & Rowe estimates that accessories can add up to 5-10% to the value of an order, but what are the hot sellers? “Coloured finishes are in high demand at the moment and this is a trend we will see continuing with customers looking to invest in gold, copper and black finishes,” says Simon Cornelius, head of marketing at Methven UK, which has recently entered the bathroom accessories market with the launch of its Türoa range.
Leading independent suppliers of bathroom furniture and products Roper Rhodes notes that accessories that help the bathroom feel less cluttered are key. “We’re seeing a growing popularity in shower caddies and baskets that maximise space and are easy to clean. The trend for more traditional accessories is also still going strong,” says the company’s brassware and accessories category manager Joe Stephens. Although Frontline Bathrooms’ sales and marketing director Michael Sammon is quick to point out that matt black remains “very much in fashion”, he also highlights the enduring appeal of more traditionally-styled products. “A classic look still works too, with oak finishes offering a timeless, British spa-esque look.”
Practical and visually enriching, the right accessories can define the overall mood of the bathroom, injecting on-trend patterns or reflecting one’s individual styling
Vado says that shorter towel rails are increasingly popular and that sales of toilet roll holders, toilet brushes, towel rings and shelves remain strong while soap dishes and beakers are less in demand. “Products carrying a good guarantee sell well, along with a strong aftercare service,” points out Roper Rhodes’ Stephens.
With the abundance of styles and finishes available continuing to increase, so will consumers’ appetite for high-quality, design-led accessories. “The challenge for manufacturers is to continue evolving accessories to meet consumers’ ever-evolving needs, particularly in regards to design, functionality and installation,” concludes Vado’s Neve.
Capitalising on sales
“There is still so much more room for improvement but from our own data, retailers are beginning to maximise their sales of bathroom accessories. For those that don’t, it’s down to the fact that they don’t realise the importance of this category and see it as a hassle. My top piece of advice for any retailer is to change their own mindset and see accessories as part of the bathroom and not a finishing touch. This means that accessories should be included in the initial design and in the quote. For those retailers who offer CAD design, there is no excuse for not including accessories in their renders” Sofia Charalambous, Creative, sales and marketing director, Bathroom Origins
“Integrate accessories into your bathroom displays and don’t forget to dress them up – towels in towel rails, dressing gowns on robe hooks, delicious smelling soap and lotion in soap dispensers help the customer see how it could look, feel and smell in their home” Kelly Everest, Marketing communications, GROHE UK
“Training can make a huge impact in supporting retailers with the sale of accessories. Retailers are already in a strong position as they have a dedicated design team that creates stunning schemes every day. By including accessories in those designs retailers can add more value, generate greater profitability and stand out from the competition” Emma Wain, Sales manager UK and Ireland, Armani Roca