Unseasonably warm days and competition from trade brands has hurt the electric blanket category. Returning the focus to safety, comfort and name brands can restore value to the market — weather permitting.

“The mild winter hit this category hard, resulting in a 10 per cent unit and 14 per cent value decline, compared to 2012,” said Sunbeam product manager — seasonal products, Katie Berra. “Even with the best products, consumers won’t buy heated products if they aren’t feeling cold.”

The unseasonal warmth is best emphasised by this stat: Sydney’s historical average for July is 12.2° Celsius; in 2013, the average was 14.6° Celsius — a significant leap of 2.4°. It was a similar story in Australia’s other eastern state capitals, with Melbourne and Brisbane both experiencing warm winters, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Even with this warm weather, those consumers that did enter the market didn’t pay as much as they had in previous years. Berra reported a $13 drop in average sales price, year on year; a decline she attributed to intense competition from retail brands.

“The presence of trade brands has exploded over the last year and is now accounting for 7 in every 10 blankets sold and half of all dollars spent in the category,” Berra said.

“Trade brands will continue to dominate the variety and department stores, as branded electric blanket sales in these channels diminishes.”

One of those retail brands was also responsible for a product recall in 2013, affecting the overall consumer confidence of electric blankets, a category that is susceptible to safety concerns.

The offending retailer was Aldi; its Lumina-branded electric blankets, supplied by Victorian company Global Source Trading, were recalled in November when it was discovered that “the cord between the controller and the blanket may become fatigued, resulting in a potential short circuit or arcing”. As a result of this fault, these electric blankets posed the risk of “fire or electric shock”.

According to research commissioned by Sunbeam, 35 per cent of consumers who are considering buying an electric blanket still have safety concerns. For this reason, Berra said it is important that retailers underline the safety aspects offered by name brand suppliers. Sunbeam, Berra said, offers nine levels of safety protection.

While the electric blanket market has experienced declines, Berra noted that heated throws, which Sunbeam also markets, have been performing well.

“Other heated furnishings, such as electric throws and cushions, are becoming a large growth area as consumers look for economical ways to keep warm during the daytime and evenings outside the bedroom,” she said, noting that unit market share of throws has almost doubled to 18 per cent since September 2012.

“We believe consumers will start to see heated products as lifestyle items and, as such, will try to coordinate their purchases to match their home furnishings.”

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Sunbeam’s archrival in electric blankets is Kambrook. Business manager Adam Tacey said there was still prosperity to be unlocked in this category, provided retailers focus on the right attributes.

“Kambrook believes that the electric blanket market should continue to grow,” he said. “Safety, durability and affordability remain top of mind in this market.

“The breadth of the Kambrook range along with a strong focus on safety has helped Kambrook gain a good share in this market.”

Tacey has observed the damage that rival companies’ product recalls have done to the market. He says a focus on brand names with a track record of reliability is essential.

“Kambrook continues to make electric blankets which have a strong emphasis on safety and durability. Each product has gone through rigorous testing to give consumers peace of mind.”

In addition to safety, Tacey has looked to incorporate a lot of options in the range, to suit a variety of different consumers.

“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 king-size Snugasabug 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.”

Some of the features of Kambrook blankets include Japanese heating wire; overheat protection for added peace of mind; and durable, washable fabrics.

Sunbeam heated cushion
Sunbeam’s Feel Perfect Faux Fur Heated Cushion (TR8100, RRP $69) has been designed to provide luxurious warmth and comfort during the winter months.
Kambrook electric blanket
The control on the Kambrook KEB442 electronic blanket is detachable for ultimate convenience.
Sunbeam Feel Perfect Velvet Throw Rug
Sunbeam Feel Perfect Velvet Throw Rug (TR4100, RRP $79).
Kambrook electric blanket
Kambrook Snugasabug Fitted Electric Blanket in King (KEB442, RRP $99): Detachable dual controllers and three heat settings are the major features on this machine washable blanket that extra foot warmth for added comfort.
Sunbeam heated throw
Sunbeam Feel Perfect Luxe Faux Fur Heated Throw (TR6300, RRP $139): With luxurious thick fur and Sleep Perfect technology to react to body temperatures, this throw with six heat controls is ideal for comfy couch sessions on cold days and nights.