Selling Warmth & Wellness in the Bath

by Autumn McGarr

Health and wellbeing are top of mind, especially in our new normal, creating endless opportunities for decorative plumbing and hardware sales professionals. There are numerous showroom products that promote health and wellness, but many are often overlooked by both the customer and the sales associate.

But imagine a customer’s reaction if you presented the following: There are few things less appealing than getting out of your warm, cozy bed after a good night’s rest. Sliding out from under the covers, you stumble into the bathroom, eyes half open, fumbling for the light switch. Unless you are one of the lucky few, you are likely walking into a cold bathroom – cold bathroom tiles, cold toilet seat, cold towels and cold ambient temperature. This doesn’t have to be the case. Imagine what it would be like to be one of the lucky few?

In today’s environment it should not be difficult to convince your clients to bring warmth and wellness into the bath. From your basic heated toilet seat, to single-zoned underfloor heat, to a simple towel warmer – the options are plentiful. Smart toilets offer self-opening and closing lids, heated seats, bidet options, ventilation and remote-control operation. Multi-zone underfloor heating can be customized to individual user preferences that can be operated with a smart phone. And towel warmers include temperature controls that can also warm up the bathroom.

These simple pleasures can truly make a difference in the overall bathroom experience.


Bidets have been a staple in bathrooms abroad for centuries. They promote both personal cleanliness and hygiene and reduce paper product consumption. Modern versions often come with features such as a heated seat and heated water, but they have never really taken off in the U.S. Growing up with an English mother, I spent a lot of time in the UK and Europe where they are more common. We even had one installed in our house during a renovation when I was much younger. So, I never understood why they were not more prevalent in the U.S.

Thanks to the contributions of new technology and an emphasis on healthier lifestyles and hygiene, the bidet’s popularity is on the rise, and that offers compelling reasons for showroom professionals to pitch bidets to their clients. In addition to providing superior hygiene, bidets are particularly appealing to prospective customers who care about the environment. According to Scientific American magazine, 15 million trees sacrifice their lives annually to make 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper that Americans use. 473 billion gallons of water are necessary to make toilet paper each year. 253,000 tons of chlorine are employed to bleach toilet paper and 17.3 terawatts of electricity are needed for the manufacturing process. The environmental footprint increases when you factor in the cost of shipping.

Having a working or demo unit in your showroom will go a long way to helping consumers get a better grasp of what it can do, as they can be quite overwhelming with so many features and foreign looking remotes. Some units even tout UV lights that disinfect the seats and/or toilet bowls.

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating dates back hundreds, even thousands of years, to the Greeks and Romans. Modern underfloor heating systems use pipes with hot water running through them or electric heating cables sandwiched between the subfloor and tile, hardwoods, laminate or even carpet. Jamie Gold, well-known kitchen and bath industry consultant and KBDN columnist, describes underfloor heating as a “comfort and joy” facet of wellness design in her newest book, Wellness by Design, A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press). “Many of us happily discovered underfloor heating in chilly hotel bathrooms during European trade show visits,” she recalls, “and then we brought it home to our households and clients.”

Several companies offer underfloor or radiant floor heating products. There are choices between hydronic heating (running water through pipes/tubes) and electric heating technologies. Most people opt for the electric variation within the home as it is less costly and easier to install. More advanced smart systems are controlled with a Wi-Fi connected digital thermostat or via apps. The settings can be customized for different floor zones, temperatures and schedules. Some can be used to heat entire rooms, which is a great alternative to clunky radiators. They can also be used outdoors where climates stay below freezing for long periods during the winter months, acting as defrosters that melt the snow from driveways, walkways and roofs. We don’t see floor heating nearly as much living in the South, but we should. It can still get chilly in the winter; we just think 50 degrees F is freezing instead of 30 degrees F!

While it may seem daunting to specify underfloor heating to a bathroom project, most companies have now made it very user friendly. Many have tools on their website or customer support teams that will do all the heavy lifting for you. Simply provide a floorplan or dimensional information and manufacturers will help do the rest. In additional to the wow factor, another selling point is that heated floors lower utility bills and help to reduce moisture and humidity while improving indoor air quality in the bath.

Towel Warmers

Towel warmers are one of the greatest luxuries in the bathroom and are frequently overlooked by both sales professionals and customers. Gold describes them in her book as a worthwhile feature to consider for homeowner and guest bathrooms: “Plush bath towels give any bathroom a spa touch and feel amazing on your skin, especially fresh off of a towel warmer.” (“Imagine the Airbnb raves for that amenity – especially in ski lodging,” she adds.)

Towel warmers, also known as heated towel racks, provide a great upgrade to the standard towel bar. With many manufacturers providing great options, they can fit any budget. A basic towel warmer can be found for the same, or even less, than the cost of a single towel bar depending on the brand.

As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, viruses and bacteria are at the top of people’s minds. Damp towels are breeding grounds for bacteria growth. A towel warmer helps to kill bacteria on towels and eliminate pungent odors that towels often emit. Not only do they dry and warm towels so they are always smelling fresh, but towel warmers can also double as space heaters.

Modern day towel warmers can truly be a piece of art in a client’s bathroom, with so many different looks. They can blend in with the surroundings or be used as a bold statement piece on the wall, with custom colors and designs.

Bathroom accessories are often the last items selected for a bath remodel. With budgets being tight, if not already exceeded, and wanting to wrap up the project, sales associates often take the easy way out and pick the basic towel bars and robe hooks. These items, while serving a basic purpose, lack much thought and function and often compromise the look, feel and enjoyment of a new bath. Including a towel warmer as part of a sales presentation transforms utilitarian functionality into an in-home spa experience.   

Towel warmers add that comforting luxury while they also reduce costs associated with laundry, eliminate bacteria and mildew growth on towels, and reduce humidity and moisture in the bathroom. An added bonus is the function beyond the bathroom – air dry delicate clothes, warm pajamas or jeans on a cold winter day or spoil your baby with a warm blanket before bed.

Wellness in Warmth

A trend that emerged a few years ago in the industry, which is really taking root, is the concept of wellness design. “People are really becoming more aware of the links [between] where they live and their well-being,” Gold observes. “That hasn’t always been the case, but COVID-19 has really driven this connection home – literally!” she notes. “Research shows that wellness is one of the top criteria home buyers and remodeling clients are seeking now, and that wellness homes command higher prices than their standard competitors.”

Its principals are founded on 10 different pillars that affect our daily lives, one of them being thermal comfort. Thermal comfort takes into consideration how warmth (or the lack thereof) affects personal comfort in the home. Typically, this falls to the HVAC system, but that is very impersonal. However, products like underfloor heating, towel warmers and heated toilet seats provide a much more comforting and personal experience. By incorporating one of the five main senses – touch – in a more direct manner, it heightens the overall experience. How many of your customers would say no to products that provide warmth to the soles of bare feet on a cold winter morning or wrapping up in a warm, cozy towel or bathrobe after a nice hot bath or shower? There is something so comforting about it all. When selling products that warm and promote wellbeing, emphasize the comfort that they bring to the client and their families.

Homeowners who have been working from home for the past six months, and will be doing so for the foreseeable future, recognize that their homes are not what they want them to be. They may now be ready to turn their regular bath into the spa bathroom of their dreams, with products that will create the desired look and feel.

Showrooms are busy. The time is ripe for showroom sales professionals to master their ability to create in-home spa-inspired baths for their customers. A gentle, warming touch can go a long way to make the master bathroom the oasis that melts away the tensions and stresses of life. ▪

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