Aga cooks up growth on the core
Sales of Aga cast iron cookers are reported as growing again, up 15% and at the highest level since 2005/06. This comes after several difficult years of people cutting back on this £10,000 a pop luxury item during the recession. The renewed success of this iconic brand has some interesting lessons on growing the core.
For readers who don't know the brand, Aga is over 80 years old. The cookers were traditionally run on gas or oil, took several hours to heat up and then kept their heat. Indeed, some users say the oven works not only as a cooker, but also as a type of radiator to keep the kitchen warm.
1. Stick to what made you famous
The brand has stuck with what made it famous in terms of fundamental design and premium pricing. This must have been tough during the economic downturn, with the temptation perhaps to cut prices and/or create a more accessible and modern looking cooker.
Whilst the basic product design has stayed the same, Aga has innovated the product's functionality. A key change was to offer an electric version. This accounts for c. 65% of sales, compared to only 5% in 2003. A "greener" version of this oven launched in 2011 heats up in only eight minutes, versus six hours for a traditional model. This saves both time and energy costs. And with a real touch of high-tech, the Total Control range allows users to control the oven by text message or smartphone.
Aga reminds me a bit of Burberry's, in the way they have taken a traditional, long established product and given it a contemporary twist. As long ago as 1968 the company was adding a range of colours to match with different peoples' kitchens. And the "Iron Age Woman" ad campaign that ran in the 2000's made fun of the idea of the brand being old, giving the brand a contemporary feel.
With confidence in the home market now renewed, the company is also looking to grow the core by expanding into China in 2014. Aga does seem to be one of those quintessentially British luxury brands the Chinese would like. Though time will tell how the product fits into your average Chinese kitchen!
In conclusion, Aga is a good example of a brand who has remembered and refreshed what made it famous, sticking to its guns during the hard times and coming good in the end.