- Market has softened overall due to an influx of cheaper models from Turkey and China.
- Premium brands are adding exciting new features like steam cooking, induction hobs and pyrolytic cleaning to their freestanding range.
- The ultra-premium range cooker market has some brilliant new models that combine functionality with a splash of colour.
(At the end of this story is our Freestanding Cooker product guide.)
The prominence of built-in kitchens with seamless integrated appliances has left the freestanding cooker market crying out for some attention.
Italian brand Smeg calls the freestanding cooker market its ‘home turf’ and it prides itself on offering a diverse range of sizes, styles and technology to suit a broad but premium customer base. After introducing the “first ever” gas cooker in 1956, Smeg has continually innovated in order to meet demand, and it now boasts six widths, four finishes and two completely different design aesthetics, along with a choice of gas, induction or ceramic for the hob.
“The brand dominates the market and nominates diversity as one of the cornerstones of its ongoing success in this category,” said national marketing manager Jim Kalotheos. “Collaboration with the world’s leading architects and chefs has perfected an appliance with ultra-responsive stove top cooking and a perfectly controlled oven for delicious results every time.”
One of Smeg’s most recent additions is the 110-centimetre Victoria, which is available in black and panna enamel. It features vintage aesthetics that Kalotheos says have resonated with both the consumer and architectural markets. This success prompted Smeg to release a 90-centimetre version with matching rangehoods earlier this year.
Eurolinx national market manager Daniel Bertuccio said by offering consumers options, retailers will be able to serve their needs without the need to compete on price. ILVE cookers are now available in two extra colours, gloss black and bright white, meaning they will fit into even more Australian kitchens.
“The Freestanding cooker market is steady and there is still space in the market for this category,” Bertuccio said. “I believe ILVE is still very much a benchmark in terms of quality and diversity across our range of appliances in this category, not to mention our extensive range of styles, sizes, cooktop options and colours. We have ultimately strived to offer the consumer a freestanding product for any kitchen scenario.”
ILVE’s hero product is its 90-centimetre Quadra Cooker with Teppanyaki plate (PW90FMP, RRP $7,769). Bertuccio said retailers looking to see cooker such as this one should start by qualifying the customer.
“Like any category, it is important to correctly identify the customer and gauge their interest or openness to Freestanding appliances, so time is not wasted. Once interest is confirmed, it is important to sell the features and benefits of Freestanding appliances so they are convinced are certain that it is the product for them.
Fisher & Paykel’s approach is to position freestanding cookers as the home equivalent of what professional chefs use in their restaurant kitchens.
“Freestanding cookers are the domestic version of the professional chef’s cooker so they particularly appeal to passionate home cooks who like to test their skills,” said marketing manager Kara May. “This growing market of serious cooks will often try several complex recipes at one time and needs versatile, larger appliances to help them achieve their culinary triumphs.”
Fisher & Paykel has four new freestanding cookers in its 2014 range, in both 60-centimetre and 90-centimetre varieties.
“Each model accommodates individual needs and budget with a range of choices in cooking modes, including defrost, rotisserie and pyrolytic self-cleaning, plus a choice of gas or induction cooktops,” May said, highlighting the new 90-centimetre multifunction pyro oven with five gas burners for RRP $4,299 (OR90SDBGFPX1).
Mary Karagiannakis from Blanco says that although the freestanding market has softened slightly, there is still plenty of interest in the form factor.
“Although freestanding cookers are on a slight decline, Australians still have a love affair with them. They want them big; they want them bulky and a centre piece of their kitchen,” she said. “Solid construction is in demand with sturdy knobs and doors.”
Karagiannakis said there is a Blanco cooker for everyone and she rattled off a list of features that are sure to turn heads on the retail floor.
“With some of the most advanced and innovative features in European design and technology, Blanco freestanding cookers deliver optimum performance to the Australian market.
“From a 5-burner gas cooktop with wok or fish burners; to a 6-burner gas cooktop with a dual control wok burner, where the inner burner can work independently of the outer burner; to a 5-zone induction top with boost on all zones; there is a Blanco freestanding cooker to suit every requirement.”
Blanco is distributed by Shriro, which also looks after Omega.
“Although this category is dominated by a few models, Omega is committed to the category, and plans to release some exciting new product late 2014/early 2015,” said a spokesperson. “For the meantime, our current range of product is performing well in the marketplace, however, there are bigger things on the horizon.”
Omega’s line-up comprises 60- and 90-centimetre ceramic and dual fuel models.
Rachael Williams, the national sales and marketing manager for specialist brands at Arisit, is certainly not afraid to speak her mind. Williams is looking after the new Steel brand of high-end, colourful cookers and when we asked her for views on the market, she was very forthright:
“The freestanding category has lost its way to the combi-steam and built-in markets and I think this can be partly attributed to the lack of innovation in the freestanding cooker category,” she said. “With the exception of adding induction hob variations, there have been no developments in this category.
“Declining average sales prices in this category are due to product coming out of China and Turkey, resulting in lower quality product in the market.
“In the European market, colours are trending strongly, but here in the Australian market, consumers are conservative and are always conscious of the re-sale value of their style decisions.”
There are two types of Steel cookers: Genesi, which is robust and modern; and Ascot, for provincial and classic style kitchens. Both ranges include 90-, 100- and 120-centimetre cookers with multiple hob variations.
What really sets the Steel freestanding range apart, according to Williams, is the inclusion of steam cooking, which has traditionally been confined to the integrated market. Steel cookers start at RRP $6,999.
“As Combi -steam is a relatively new technology to the Australian consumer, Steel offers both in-store demonstrations at retailers, where possible, as well as classes in cooking schools in both Victoria and Tasmania. We are planning to have one in Western Australia by the end of the year.”
Bosch has introduced two new freestanding electric cookers to its range this year, including Australia’s first 60-centimetre upright with both an induction cooktop and pyrolytic cleaning (HCE858451A, RRP $3,999). Monica McCormack, product manager for cooking, said this was an ideal unit for customers looking to trade up when re-entering the market.
“Freestanding cooktops provide a fantastic solution for the replacement market,” she said. “The freestanding appliance has come a long way in terms of variety available, today catering to the needs of specific consumer preference.”
Bosch prides itself on energy efficiency and sustainability across its complete appliance offering. “Bosch is a market leader in resource efficiency and the launch of the new, CombiInduction cooktop reiterates this to the market. Retailers would do well to focus the consumer’s attention to Bosch energy efficiencies and ease of use when selling cooking appliances.”
McCormack said that while it’s important to choose appliances that can help save time, energy and money, it is also important to choose an appliance that fits the home’s aesthetics. Bosch’s freestanding induction cooker has black and stainless steel styling for a timeless yet slightly futurist appearance.
Lisa Sutcliffe, marketing manager at Technika, is currently overseeing the deployment of Bertazzoni’s Professional Series of colourful cookers, which are available in 90 centimetre widths with a variety of fuel configurations; or in 122 centimetres with a 6-burner gas cooktops, teppanyaki griddle and double electric ovens.
Sutcliffe said all-white kitchens are fading in popularity as consumers look to style their kitchens with colourful fittings and materials like brass, copper and wood panelling. Accelerating this trend is a move to colourful major appliances, as customers look to purchase cookers that match the high-end bright and bold benchtop smalls that have become so popular. Bertazzoni cookers are available in white, red, cream, black, yellow, burgundy, blue, green and stainless steel.
For the rest of 2014, the plan at Technika is to ramp up marketing to increase brand awareness, focusing on the premium position that Bertazzoni holds in the market. Sutcliffe was appreciative of retail efforts so far.
“We thank our retailers for the terrific job they do at promoting the credibility and innovation that Bertazzoni brings to the marketplace,” she said.
“The future is exciting for Bertazzoni. Our freestanding cookers will continue to house state of the art features and one-of-a- kind Italian design, and new colour options will surprise and delight our retailers and consumers for many years to come.”
Finally, Jo Edwards, national brand manager at Falcon, thinks its range of 110-centimetre, colourful cookers are not just appliances but art.
“For many years now, the kitchen has become a centrepiece in many households,” Edwards said. “Many homes are built open plan with the kitchen visible from a number of rooms — perfect for entertaining!
“Now it’s not just about having a beautiful kitchen, though. It’s about having that one piece of ‘artwork’ in your kitchen — the focal point that everything else has been styled around. A beautifully styled range cooker can give them the point of difference they are after.”
There are four distinctive styles of Falcon range cookers: Elan, Classic, Professional and Kitchener, all available in 90- and 110-centimetre widths with multiple fuel options, including dual fuel, gas and induction. Colours available in the range include Olive Green, Royal Pearl, Latte, Rose Taupe and Chocolate.
Edwards says that in the rush to sell an integrated kitchen, retailers might forget that value and satisfaction can be generated from a freestanding appliance.
“Don’t be afraid to offer your customer an alternative to built-in cooking,” she said in her message to retailers. “Sometimes it is an option they quite simply have not considered and discover that it suits their needs better.
“There is also a misconception that freestanding appliances can be too big for smaller kitchens, so they are often neglected in the purchase decision. With the availability of 90-centimetre sizes, with single or double oven options, a Falcon range cooker can work just as well in smaller spaces.”
This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell