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CES 2019 Preview: Color’s Still King For Major Appliances

Connected-home smarts outshined by black stainless

As CES enters its 52nd year, manufacturers, brands, products and technologies continue to emerge to serve a changing landscape.

Based upon a foundation of true CE goods, the trade show made its inaugural appearance in New York in June 1967. The initial event hosted an approximate attendee list of 17,500 people and featured over 100 exhibitors. At that time, the kickoff speaker was Motorola chairman Bob Galvin. As of last year, the annual event now hosts approximately 182,000 attendees, over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000 guest speakers.

As the senior home appliance analyst with Gap Intelligence, a competitive intelligence firm based in San Diego, my area of focus is on major appliances. When I first attended CES in 2013, appliance manufacturers were slowly introducing their selections to the CE-geared crowd, with tech-focused LG and Samsung leveraging their strong consumer electronics backgrounds to bring their appliance technology to the forefront. At that time, South Korean manufacturers dedicated just a portion of their massive Central Hall booths to highlight their innovations within home appliances and conceptual smart home integration.

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Similarly, Whirlpool, then positioned within the Sands Expo Center’s “Mommy Tech Zone” (part of Tech West), maintained a more modest booth and featured highly conceptual products that drew images of “The Jetsons” to mind.

Fast forward six years and what once seemed highly conceptual and out of reach is our present day reality. CES is no longer a show to solely conceptualize (although that does still play a fun part), but it is a place for appliance manufacturers to tout their incredible technology designed to make our homes smarter and more seamlessly integrated across products and technologies. Home appliances play an integral part in the smart-home landscape, with the kitchen serving as the heart of the home. Expect, this year, to see a persistent evolution of smart-home integration with Samsung continuing to build upon on its SmartThings ecosystem, LG highlighting its ThinQ technology, and highly publicized brand-wide smart assistant integrations with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

While IoT continues to be at the forefront of appliance industry innovation, color choices are also a major part of manufacturers’ selling strategies and are anticipated to be highlighted again this year, particularly black stainless. First introduced to the market by KitchenAid, LG and Samsung, black stainless has since grown to include an additional seven brands, including Bosch, Dacor, Frigidaire, GE, Insignia (Best Buy’s signature brand), Kenmore and Whirlpool. Since 2016, black stainless retail placements have more than quadrupled, and black stainless products are also quickly becoming a popular option to showcase across retail floor spaces, as they currently comprise approximately 20 percent, on average, of a national retailers’ floorspace.

See also: HomeEasy At Home In U.S. Appliance Market

Expect LG, GE and Whirlpool — and an uncharacteristically limited showing from Samsung — to highlight this color choice heavily within their CES booths this week as they lean in on their color portfolios. As the color choice continues to prove popular, many manufacturers and brands are taking it a step further with matte black variations and matte white, while Whirlpool continues to showcase its Sunset Bronze finish, a warmer golden stainless hue.

In addition to CES, major manufacturers are doubling down on Las Vegas and returning a month later for the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Held Feb. 19-21, major CE-based appliance manufacturers will return to the city to target a design-and-construction focused audience. While LG and GE have showcased their products at KBIS in years past, LG reserved the space for its premium Signature portfolio, while GE highlighted a handful of its products across sub-brands. This year, expect GE to lean into its “House of Brands” strategy, announced last year at KBIS, and lend unique identities to its Café, Profile, Monogram, and Artistry brands.

Samsung will be the newest exhibitor to enter the KBIS floor this year, as it will not only occupy floor space on the main floor, but will also move its long-held “North American Showcase” at Aria from CES to KBIS, subsequently bringing its retail accounts back to Las Vegas next month.

Christine Edwards is the senior home appliance analyst at Gap Intelligence.