Black is the New Black: The Rise of Black Stainless Steel

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Step inside your imaginary dream home with me and tell me all about the shiny new appliances in your shiny new kitchen. Do they happen to be black stainless-steel appliances? If so, you’re not alone – the finish is enjoying increasing popularity. While the majority of consumers still go for white appliances—which make up almost 49% of the market (after all, major appliances are still referred to as ‘white goods’), we’ve seen the number of black stainless appliances grow over the past several years. It hasn’t reached the all-star status of Stainless Steel (the most popular finish after white), but buyers are beginning to branch out. In the past five quarters, the share of Black Stainless-Steel appliances has consistently increased—they now make up almost 7% of all appliance finishes. Which brands have benefited from this growing trend, and which groups of consumers are most embracing it?

Jumping on the Black Stainless Steel Trend

Black Stainless-Steel (BSS) finishes began circulating amongst major appliance manufacturers in the US in 2015. Early adopters of the finish included Korean brands Samsung and LG, who commanded the lion’s share of the market in the early days after its introduction.

According to TraQline’s data from the first quarter of 2016 data, just over 41% of BSS appliances came from Samsung and 1/3 came from LG. The two brands have maintained this lead over the nine quarters that TraQline has been capturing data on the trend. However, as the trend caught fire, several other brands started to edge in on Samsung and LG’s territory. In particular, GE, Whirlpool, and Frigidaire have seen impressive growth in Black Stainless sales. For example, at the end of 2016, GE claimed just 3% of the brand share for black stainless appliances. Just one year later, in Q4 2017, its brand share of the finish was at just over 15%.

Retailers Embrace the Sleek new Look

Lowe’s has maintained the lead in BSS sales for nine straight quarters. In fact, just over one-quarter of all black stainless appliances were sold by Lowe’s in the four quarters ending Q1 2018. Home Depot and Best Buy have also given black stainless a boost- Home Depot, in particular, has seen a significant increase in Black Stainless sales over the past year. Sears was also a leader in the category in 2016, though the retailer has since lost its spot in the top 3 to Home Depot and Best Buy.

Gen-X Leads the Way In Black Stainless Steel Purchases

So just who’s buying black stainless appliances? The short answer is: Everyone! The longer answer is that the demographic breakdown of who’s buying black stainless appliances matches the general breakdown for who’s buying major appliances as a whole. However, by breaking down purchase behavior of each generation, there are a few facts that stand out:

  • Gen X-ers buy slightly more Black Stainless Steel appliances than other cohorts. But these gains in BSS share do not come from white appliances like other cohorts’ purchases do. They appear to be coming at the expense of other less common appliance colors. White major appliances still make up just over half of all appliance purchases that the Gen X cohort purchases.
  • Baby Boomers and Millennials are just behind Gen X shoppers when it comes to Black Stainless Steel.
  • Boomers have shifted from buying more traditional white major appliances to expanding their major appliance color palettes- and Black Stainless is picking up the share.
  • Millennials have typically embraced more color in their major appliance choices, with white appliances routinely commanding less than half the unit share. Black Stainless has drawn share from both white major appliances and other color options.
  • The Mature generation (those born prior to 1945) have not fallen under the Black Stainless Steel spell. They overwhelmingly prefer white appliances- with nearly 58% of their major appliance purchases in Q1 of 2018. Some 5% have embraced the sleek Black Stainless look though. This share also seems to have been drawn away from other colors on offer.

This graph shows the rising number of major appliances sold with a Black Stainless Steel finish. Numbers in green show statistically significant growth. (c) TraQline 2018

Industry Insight from TraQline

No matter how you slice it, Black Stainless is rising in popularity. After white, stainless, and black, Black Stainless is the third most popular major appliance color choice as of Q1 of 2018. As more brands offer the color, it has the opportunity to keep growing in popularity amongst buyers. Has its popularity influenced what you keep in stock? Reach out to us on Twitter or LinkedIn and let us know! Are you ready to get the insight you need to keep your company up-to-date on the latest consumer and industry trends? Contact the market research experts at TraQline to get started today.