US consumers show real appetite for UK design

British KBB brands have reported a strong desire for British design among US consumers, following positive feedback from this year’s KBIS show in Las Vegas.

Adam Mosley, director at Thomas Crapper, feels that there always has been a desire for UK products in the US market. He said: “I think there are certain sections of the market over here that really appreciate the more European stylings, and what Thomas Crapper brings to that is the ability to personalise products. We’ve found that people in the US also really love our company’s name.”

Paul Dwyer, managing director of Thomas Crapper, agrees, adding that this is a real selling point for legacy brands like his. He added: “Immediately people fall in love with it, especially when we explain the history of it, and that some of these tanks are copied from the Victorian originals, they absolutely love that – especially now we’ve brought it up to date with a real pop of colour of the US consumers. I think the fact that we’re showing respect to the US market by introducing a US pan and connector to convert European products to American specification, has also worked really well in our favour.”

Similarly, Kathryn Hall, marketing manager at Crofts & Assinder, believes that the history behind long-established UK brands is a real selling point in the US market. She explained: “I think American consumers absolutely love British design, and they understand the history and the quality behind the products like ours, and they really appreciate it.”

Bradley Culmer, business development director at Fitzroy of London, believes that there is a big contingent of US consumers who are interested in traditional-look fittings, and UK companies are able to provide that.  He added: “Also, the label of ‘UK-made’ has got definite connotations of quality and good design. From the people I’ve been speaking to, it feels like when you say your products are made and manufactured in the UK, the products are just automatically assumed to be good quality, and we’re hoping that’s a real selling point for us.

“On this side of the Atlantic, the design trends can be quite different, so it’s important that we understand those so we can make sure we have products that are meeting that expectation.”

Mark Conacher, recently-appointed managing director at Senstec USA, thinks that cultural assumptions about the UK and its history have helped his company brand establish itself in the US KBB sector. He said: “Even our accents draw attention here and it’s a way to introduce myself and the brand here as we’re starting out in this new market.

“Being Scottish, it seems like everyone I speak to wants to tell me that someone like their granny’s Scottish – but it’s true, because as a country we’ve emigrated everywhere over the world. That’s what draws people in with the UK. They’re always interested in that, and I think that follows through to the products as well.”

Tom Reynolds, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, believes that British identity works as a sort of selling point in itself. He explained: “There’s a lot of interest in Britain as a wider brand, but also the quality and provenance of the products and companies exhibiting here, so there’s definitely a lot of enthusiasm here in the US.”

Sherry Qualls, NKBA Global Connect consultant, agrees that there is a strong desire for products and brands built in the UK on foreign soil. She told kbbreview: “First of all, for American consumers, who still like a more transitional to traditional flavour, they really love the legacy of UK brands, and the history and connections to the various periods of architecture. They understand Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian – and there is a really powerful emotional connection there.

“For example, when we think about taps, water closets and frankly, the bathtub – all of these really romantic ideas of the really classical Edwardian bathroom, the UK offers that beauty and that authenticity that frankly is not as readily found elsewhere. I mean, from a bathroom perspective, your country really created the concept of that – you have a whole city named Bath!

“Although the Italians contributed a lot as well, the whole idea of creating a bathroom environment that is beautiful and relaxing is an idea that I really attribute to the British. The UK does a really good job with contemporary products as well, but with a flair that connects to that legacy too.”

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