R&D efforts focus on enhancing basic features rather than automation.
China suppliers of toilets, bidets and urinals are turning their attention to traditional models. Simplicity and efficiency are the key words in product development.
With regard to aesthetics, white will continue to dominate finishing options. Designs in this hue are popular since consumers find it easier to match with different bathroom fixtures and interior styles.
Functionwise, companies are shifting back from intelligent sensor-equipped systems to basic flush types. This is because while the former remains popular in Japan and South Korea, conventional pieces sell better in North America and Europe. The trend became apparent to many manufacturers in 2009, when the global economic crisis slowed down exports.
Technological limits are also a major consideration in suppliers' decision to revert to conventional models. Smart toilets, bidets and urinals from most domestic makers do not perform on a par with models from Toto, Kohler and other overseas-based enterprises.
Water efficiency, however, remains an R&D priority.
In the toilet sector, for instance, 95 percent of suppliers already offer designs with 3 and 6L flush options. The selection will expand at a fast rate in the next three to five years, with interest in the line on the upswing amid increased environmental awareness at home and overseas. Governments around the world are enacting legislation or implementing programs supporting the move toward water-saving technologies, further pushing demand forward.
China, for one, already requires toilets to have 3/6L dual- flush systems. Urinals are limited to 3L per flush.
Outlook & cost challenges
Ceramic types dominate
Makers of toilets, bidets and urinals are positive export sales will remain on the upswing in coming months. Growth is anticipated to range from 10 to 20 percent.
Customs statistics for the year ending February 2011 attest to strengthening demand. Chinaâs revenue from ceramic sanitaryware shipments rose nearly 17 percent YoY, reaching $786.7 million during the period.
The US, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region are expected to be the major drivers of demand. The first two each account for roughly 30 percent of export sales, while Asia-Pacific markets contribute 20 to 25 percent.
Amid this bright perspective, companies have to contend with shrinking margins. Profits declined about 15 percent in 2010 due to higher production outlay.
Rates for the components of clay mixtures, in particular, climbed 15 to 40 percent last year and have kept on rising. The cost of local calcined kaolin, for instance, ranged from $350 to $560 per ton in September. This March, the same amount of material was being procured for between $400 and $600.
To cover higher production expenses, ceramic sanitaryware suppliers raised prices 10 to 15 percent early this year.
The majority of China-made toilets, bidets and urinals are made of ceramic, which utilizes domestic kaolin. These have surfaces covered with glaze that prevents water absorption and renders a smooth finish. Upscale designs often employ an anti-bacterial coating that contains argent and titanium oxide.
Ceramic toilets come in 1 or 2-piece designs. Single-mold constructions go for at least $40, while 2-piece types are available starting at $30.
Models come with the requisite plastic or metal fittings. Low-end variants have single-flush systems that consume 6 to 8L, while most midrange versions offer light and heavy flush options using 3 and 6L, respectively. Higher up the price scale, the selection includes water-saving designs that utilize 2, 3.5, 3.8, 4.5 or 4.8L.
Urinals are on offer starting at $15. Wall- and floor-mount designs are available, with the former accounting for 70 percent of output.
Bidets are priced $20 to $120 each. Designs are marketed together with stainless steel, copper or bronze faucets and accessories.
Model: Easy Bidet
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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