Chinese middle-class affluence is helping revive the local market for dishwashers, a product that never really took off in the past.
The segment is expected to double its growth this year, in line with the ongoing consumption upgrade in the country, according to a report from GfK China, a consumer and market research firm.
Dishwasher sales on JD.com, an online marketplace, grew 239 percent from January to September, according to the China Household Electrical Appliances Association.
Countrywide sales reached 2.42 billion yuan (0 million) from January to August, up 135 percent year-on-year. Full-year sales are expected to rise by nearly 97 percent year-on-year to 5.2 billion yuan, GfK said.
By August, 17 new dishwasher brands appeared in the market in one year. The number of product models grew from 167 last year to 229, according to a white paper of the Chinese dishwasher industry.
More brands and more models are expected in the coming months.
"The boom shows the emerging new middle class, who tend to pursue a better quality of life, has become the main consumer group (for the dishwasher segment)," said Shi Xiaoyu, home appliances analyst of GfK China.
The new generation better appreciate that dishwashers could be a cleaner, safer and highly efficient solution to kitchen-related chores, Shi said.
Dishwashers were initially launched in the China market in the early 1990s. But they failed to become popular.
Consumers thought the relatively expensive home appliance was not essential. Some thought installing a big machine at home was troublesome. Others doubted its efficiency.
Only 0.5 percent of Chinese families bought the appliance back then, according to Jiang Feng, president of the China Household Electrical Appliances Association.
This was in contrast to the West where about 70 percent of European and American families had dishwashers at home.
"Given the ongoing Chinese consumption upgrade, dishwashers will have great potential for growth in the domestic market," Jiang said.
Shi attributed dishwashers' rising popularity also to appliance makers' new marketing strategies. "Companies, especially domestic ones, have begun to launch more new dishwashers that better meet the demands of consumers," Shi said. "They also adopt innovative marketing methods such as selling through e-commerce platforms."
Sun Zhitao, general manager of the kitchen and bathroom business department of JD, said dishwashers will become a necessity for Chinese kitchens in the future.
Shi agreed. More and more consumers are considering built-in dishwashers in kitchens while finalizing interior decoration for their new homes, Shi said.
However, dishwasher manufacturers should be cautious about the impact of an overheated market on the segment's future, Shi said.
Shi further said companies should harmonize various (offline and online) sales channels, and pay more attention to design and quality, which could help increase consumer acceptance level for the product. "Dishwasher is a future kitchen star. It is on the way to gradual growth."