In spite of a mild winter and lower average sales prices, the electric blanket market performed strongly in 2014. It seems that despite the challenging macroeconomic conditions, Australians still love a good snuggle!
Nicole Norton, Sunbeam’s product marketing manager for garment care and seasonal, reported that the total Blanket and Throw category grew in the last year, up 11 per cent to 564,000 units, plus there was an all-important 15 per cent upswing in value to $35 million.
Still hanging over the category, however, is a worrying statistic from the ACCC: 360,000 recalled electric blankets have not been returned, with 10 per cent of the 400,000 electric blankets recalled since 2010 handed back for a replacement or refund.
“Safety will always be a consideration for consumers when purchasing Electric Blankets, as there have been issues in the past, particularly with older and unknown branded products,” Norton said. “In addition, last year also showed an erosion in price of the category. Quality and safety need to be emphasised, rather than price.”
Sunbeam Sleep Perfect electric blankets have nine levels of safety protection, including a built-in microprocessor, which senses any unusual rises in temperature and reduces the power supply to prevent overheating. They are also backed with a 3-year replacement guarantee for peace of mind.
“Consumers need to be reassured regarding safety by looking for heritage brands that are experts in Electric Blankets,” Norton said, adding that retailers should explain safety features and highlighting long guarantees.
As well as safety, quality and cosiness are key selling points for Sunbeam. “Electric blankets are more than functional, the reminder of the indulgent pleasure and cosiness of a warm night’s sleep often needs to be highlighted to consumers. There will always be winter deniers, and it’s no secret that people will sleep better and longer if they’re warm and cosy.”
Outside of the electric blanket market, padded mattress toppers are growing in popularity. “This trend has been reflected in the uptake of Sunbeam’s Padded Quilted range of electric blankets. This cosiness trend can also be seen in the uplift of Electric Throw sales over the last few years,” Norton said.
According to Norton, many shoppers aren’t aware that there are many variations beyond the basic blanket. On the sales floor retailers have a number of options, such as asking whether customers would prefer cotton or wool or a throw or mattress protector?
To help display and house bagged electric blankets and throws, Sunbeam has developed a Sleep Perfect floor bin. It fits up to 12 Throws or 12 Blankets and is a neat and compact solution.
Now part of the WAM Home Décor stable, electric blanket brand Jason is also drawing on its established heritage to drive sales in the category.
“Jason is a well-recognised bedding brand that has been in the Australian market for over 65 years. With a reputation of providing quality and value, Australian families have trusted Jason with their bedding needs for decades,” said Zane Nawrocki, sales and marketing manager, Jason and Onkaparinga.
“The electric blanket market will always have a huge focus on safety and quality, and rightly so. With so many brands and products on the market in the lead up to the colder weather it is imperative to ensure the products retailers are carrying meet the correct safety standards, as well follow the current trends in the market.”
As well as safety, flexibility and practicality are big concerns for buyers, who are looking for washable products they can double as an underlay all year round, Nawrocki said.
The hero product for Jason is the new Australian Wool Electric Blanket, a washable electric blanket that can be used as an underlay all year round. “Featuring detachable controllers, seven heat settings and a 10-hour auto off feature, this product will be popular with customers,” said Nawrocki.
The Jason range also includes a Fully Fitted Electric Blanket, Cosy Sherpa Electric Blanket as well as the Jason ‘Limited Edition’ Heated Throw for Mother’s Day.
According to Nawrocki, the brand is looking to raise its profile in 2015. “Jason plans to build the brand with expansion of product ranges into new retail outlets as well as participating in giveaways and promotional activities. Online presence, exposure in family-friendly publications and brand recognition strategies and sponsorships are all part of the marketing strategy for Jason in 2015.”
The focus for Kambrook’s electric blankets is on safety and durability at a reasonable price point.
“Kambrook believes that affordable blankets will remain in demand while consumers will continue to look for products that combine safety, durability and affordability,” a spokesperson from Kambrook said.
That means the key sales points for Kambrook products are its special safety systems to protect from overheating and the inclusion of durable, washable fabrics.
“Each product has gone through rigorous testing to give consumers peace of mind. The extensive range offers something for everyone, including tie-down, fitted and fleecy blankets. Kambrook continues to refresh this range offering consumers even more flexibility.
“The kingsize Snugasabug Fitted Electric Blanket contains extra heating around the feet area for additional comfort. And like the rest of the Snugasabug range, it is very competitively priced and a good performer.”
Heating appliance brand Dimplex entered the electric blanket category this year. Dimplex is owned and distributed by Glen Dimplex Australia, a subsidiary of the Irish appliance giant.
There are six models in Glen Dimplex’s range, three apiece in fitted underblanket and pillowtop varieties. Single, queen and king sizes are available, with RRPs ranging from $59.95 to $189.