In 2012 UK consumers spent £941 million on bathroom fixtures and fittings. This is split between accessories (13.9%) and furniture, fixtures and fittings (86.1%). In 2013 the market made something of a recovery, helped by more people moving house and improving consumer confidence. We estimate that in 2013 people spent £978 million on bathroom fixtures and fittings, up 3.9% on 2012.

Ensuite bathrooms are increasingly popular. Our research shows that 26% of households have two or more bathrooms and that this arrangement is most common among people who own their homes and have a mortgage (34%). But typically British bathrooms and ensuite bathooms are small and rarely lend themselves to incorporating a bidet as well as a WC. As a result it is fairly uncommon for British homes to have a bidet.

Were bidets ever popular?

In 1970s Britain a bidet was seen to be a way to appear sophisticated and worldly and there was a trend for people with the largest bathrooms to incorporate a bidet. One of the reasons bidets became popular in the 1970s was because the first generation to enjoy foreign holidays en masse returned home from France, Spain and Italy, where they are common, and wanted to recreate a bit of continental sophistication in their own homes.

Today, ensuite bathrooms, as well as the fashion for large walk-in showers and ‘his and hers’ basins has pushed out the bidet. So, manufacturers have come up with a ‘shower toilet’ which combines the bidet function into the WC. These are already popular in other parts of the world, particularly Japan (washlets) and the middle east, but increasingly in Europe.

What is a ‘shower toilet’?

A ‘shower toilet’ has an integrated douche which, at the touch of a button, washes the user with warm water. But some models go much further than this. People can choose a range of features and functions including heated toilet seats, integrated night lights, air dryers, deodorisers and antibacterial materials. Some are operated by a remote control, have programmable functions and can personalise the wash to each individual in the household.

Designers have gone as far as integrating music through a radio or in conjunction with a smart phone. And the appearance of ‘shower toilets’ has developed rapidly so that today’s customers may select sleek, modern designs.

Who will want ‘shower toilets’?

At the high end of the market ‘shower toilets’ are regarded as a highly sophisticated luxury product. Press articles suggest they are popular with customers from middle east. Today’s sleek designs can be incorporated into high-end spa bathrooms in luxury homes.

And manufacturers are pointing out the advantage of ‘shower toilets’ for a range of people from young children who are learning to keep themselves clean to people who are less mobile, perhaps through ill health.

But the main target group is likely to be the aging population – people who want to stay in their own homes but need a little extra help to maintain their independence for longer. This product helps less mobile people to maintain their personal hygiene for longer and without assistance. And today’s stylish designs are likely to be accompanied by more attractive grab rails and switches, all maintaining the appearance of a lovely bathroom. This chimes with Mintel’s consumer trend Without a Care. Here we see how an aging society in need of care will create new product markets – from home monitoring to mobility devices.

For more information, see Mintel’s Bathrooms and Bathroom Accessories report, here.

Jane’s career in retail and consumer markets has included roles as a senior retail analyst and a marketing and retail consultant to a variety of large and small organisations. For the last twenty years she has applied her expertise and knowledge of retailing, branding and marketing communications to create analysis and insight for Mintel reports. She understands what makes consumers tick and what influences their buying decisions.