The Sparkasse commercial “My house, my car, my boat” is now considered a classic in German advertising history. However, the slogan created by the renowned agency Jung von Matt has long since ceased to be used. Especially since he would hardly fit today. Because the priorities of the Germans in terms of status symbols have shifted. Cars and boats are now less important to Germans, as surveys regularly show. Instead, mobile homes and bicycles, for example, but above all kitchens, have gained in importance.
At least the Germans are now spending more money on kitchens than ever before. This is shown by the current balance sheets of industry and trade. “We are seeing massive growth in the premium price ranges in the German market,” reports Frank Jüttner, spokesman for the board of the working group Die Moderne Küche (AMK), with reference to data from market researcher GfK.
According to this, two-thirds of buyers in specialist shops now spend at least 10,000 euros on their new kitchen, and one in five even invests more than 20,000 euros. The bottom line for 2021 is an average price of 10,337 euros, as determined by GfK. That is 659 euros or the equivalent of almost seven percent more than a year earlier.
These figures also include a price effect, given the increased material and logistics costs. “But the largest part is attributable to the unbroken trend towards higher-quality kitchens,” assures Jüttner, who works full-time for the appliance manufacturer Miele. “Customers’ demands with regard to the equipment in their kitchens are constantly increasing.” This is also confirmed by the GfK data. According to this, cheap kitchens for less than 5,000 euros recorded almost six percent less sales last year, the luxury variant for 20,000 euros and more, on the other hand, recorded 28 percent growth.
“The trend is clearly towards premium,” confirms GfK consumer researcher Markus Wagenhäuser. This is also shown by a boom in premium built-in appliances. The industry has therefore recently taken devices from the entry-level price ranges out of production in order to be able to better serve the increased demand in the premium area, as industry representative Jüttner reports.
This includes, for example, free-standing fridge-freezers, induction cooktops with integrated hob hoods, energy-saving dishwashers or even ovens with a self-cleaning pyrolysis function. “There is above-average demand for premium built-in appliances,” says Wagenhäuser, reporting growth rates of between 16 and 31 percent. Drivers of this development are topics such as convenience and, increasingly, sustainability.
“Energy efficiency is now the most important feature when consumers in Germany make their final decision to buy a new refrigerator or a new dishwasher,” says Wagenhäuser. Paradoxically, modern dishwashers are still mainly used in the faster automatic program and not in the particularly environmentally friendly Eco mode, as Miele salesman Jüttner reports with reference to customer surveys.
Aside from the appliances, handleless kitchens with clear lines and high-gloss fronts are trendy, according to AMK. These design kitchens usually have so-called anti-fingerprint surfaces so that you don’t have to see every touch immediately. At the same time, worktops are becoming more spacious and are given the color of the fronts in order to create a uniform image. And the manufacturers are also increasingly cladding the predominantly high-mounted devices in the front color, where white is still the most popular look, but dark tones also find their buyers.
According to the AMK, the books for 2021 show sales of around 5.7 billion euros for the German kitchen furniture industry, which is 8.6 percent more than a year earlier. And that doesn’t even include the revenue from electrical appliances. In 2022, this positive trend has so far continued unabated. With 2.1 billion euros between January and April, the sales of companies such as Nobilia, Häcker, Schüller, Leicht, Siematic and Co. are even almost 13 percent up.
“The upgrading of one’s own home has gained additional appreciation, especially during the pandemic,” says Sander, explaining the boom. And the kitchen is by far the most important anchor point. Especially since a new meaning is being added to the kitchen, since eat-in kitchens now often have to fulfill a home office function and the kitchen table thus serves as a workplace.
April has already shown clear signs of slowing down and only had an increase of 1.4 percent compared to the same month last year, while there were growth rates of 14 to 19 percent in January, February and March. “Uncertainty is increasing in Germany,” says Markus Sander, Sales Director at Häcker Kitchens. And indeed, the GfK consumer climate index for the furniture sector has fallen to minus 26.
The barometer was not even that low at the peak of the Corona crisis. Sander nevertheless remains optimistic for 2022. “The year will be good for the industry again,” predicts the manager, who is also AMK board spokesman. Sander justifies his confidence with the existing orders. “The industry is working at full capacity until well into autumn,” reports the expert, quantifying the increase in incoming orders at the end of May at almost 16 percent.
However, one danger remains: the impending gas embargo. According to Sander, gas is needed in the kitchen furniture industry in production, but above all chipboard manufacturers are dependent on a number of chemicals, which will no longer exist if the chemical companies no longer get gas. “So without gas there is no chipboard and without chipboard there is no kitchen furniture.” The situation could change weekly. This is one of the reasons why the AMK does not dare to make a forecast for 2023.
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