Jens J. Wischmann is Managing Director of the Association of the German
Sanitary Industry (VDS) as well as Managing Director of the Bonn-based
Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Sanitärwirtschaft mbH. Since becoming
head of the umbrella association for German companies in the bathroom
and sanitary sector in 2001, he has been representing members' joint
interests by raising public awareness of the bathroom as living space.
In this interview Wischmann talks about growth markets, trends in bathroom design and Inside | Outside, the Pop up my Bathroom motto for the ISH digital 2021.
From one ISH to the next, Pop up my Bathroom has
increasingly evolved into a central platform for ambitious bathroom planners
and architects. Did you expect it to be so successful?
Yes and no. But we evidently recognised interior
professionals’ information needs and, with Pop up my Bathroom, have created an
attractive platform with added value – whether it’s the analogue version at the
ISH or the digital version on the web and social media. We’ve not only
identified a great many trend developments, we’ve amplified them and made them
popular as well. With 1 million views this year, our neutral and ad-free Pop up
my Bathroom website is heading for a new record. And about one-third of
visitors to the site come from outside Germany. Those figures have grown in a
totally organic way, without any investment in advertising, purely as a result
of the added value the content delivers. Nobody could have foreseen just how
successful the platform would be.
How will your current Pop up my Bathroom trend show
address the changes we’ve experienced as a result of corona?
Hardly at all. That’s not our subject matter. We want to
show content that inspires and informs people and creates an appetite for the
next few years. It goes without saying that our trend platform will address the
changes in the market, but when it comes to observations and interpretations of
how our bathroom culture is changing and which trends will be shaping bathroom
design over the next few years, the corona experience has virtually no direct
But you do see some indirect effects? What do you
mean by that?
The kind of thing everybody can relate to. Up until
recently, for example, I didn’t realise just how important the bathroom is for
things like upholding everyday rituals. The fact is, the private home and
private spa are taking on greater significance in people’s lives, and the
experience of the pandemic and the resulting isolation have made customers even
more aware of certain functions that are playing an increasingly important part
in bathroom design – things like fitness or wellness, and especially
relaxation. But the trend developments that Pop up my Bathroom is interested in
for the ISH digital 2021 are more enduring than that; they’re based on
observations of lifestyles that are establishing themselves long term, on
social and socio-structural developments like demographics and urbanisation, as
well as on interior trends that are influencing the home in general. Those
developments aren’t being caused by corona; it’s more that the pandemic is
weakening or strengthening them. As in many other areas of life, the crisis is
acting like a catalyst that accelerates developments and exposes strengths and
So how do you see the current economic situation
for the bathroom?
Interior lifestyle is an extremely popular topic
right now and is also boosting the attractiveness of the bathroom, which is
increasingly being perceived as a proper, fully fledged room – with all the
expectations of an aesthetic design and comfortable furnishings to match. In
the private sector, the hugely important role that people’s home environment
plays in their quality of life is certainly a driver for the good to very good
economic situation Germany’s bathroom sector finds itself in. The bathroom is
becoming a place of refuge within our own four walls and is experiencing a huge
upgrade due to higher-quality furnishings and equipment. Given these very good
market conditions, the challenges the trades are facing have more to do with
staff shortages, which don’t allow for much in the way of reserves – partly
because we’ve had a recruitment problem for years now. Obviously our member
companies with a strong export focus have been very directly affected by the
global impact the pandemic is having on the economy – but so far, the decline
in sales has been manageable.
"The ISH is the innovation engine for new products and trends in the bathroom.“
Now the ISH 2021 will be purely digital. Does that
change the situation for Pop up my Bathroom?
The ISH is always an important occasion for us because it’s
the innovation engine for new products and trends in the bathroom. Although the
physical exhibition at the ISH 2021 in Frankfurt has had to be cancelled, that
doesn’t prevent us from communicating the trends for the ISH digital 2021.
Right now we definitely also see advantages to that, because we have a
functioning digital platform that’s already accepted and used by the community.
After all, business continues, and if anything the pandemic is only strengthening
end customers’ desire to renovate their homes and bathrooms. Pop up my Bathroom
will play a special role in the ISH digital 2021 and perform an important
function as an interface between the exhibitors who are taking part and
Speaking of refurbishing the bathroom: with Inside
| Outside, Pop up my Bathroom is addressing the trend towards holistic bathroom
Obviously that particular trend is nothing new for
professionals, but the new technologies that are establishing themselves are
making it more dominant. Plus, there’s not enough public awareness. It’s also
about adapting the image of the trades to reflect the new realities. And the
current Pop up my Bathroom campaign is only the first step.
So you want to draw attention away from the
individual product and look behind the wall?
Exactly. When it comes to setting a new quality standard,
the new challenges aren’t so much associated with the individual products as
with how to connect all the different products intelligently. For the future,
we need a new understanding of integration, we need to adopt a holistic
approach by trying out cross-system concepts. A fantastic lifestyle bathroom is
only as good as the sum of the products in front of and behind the wall. A lot
of building and home owners tend to ignore that and give in to the temptation
of cheap prices in online shops or glossy photos. As we know, professional
bathroom planning depends on several different trades working hand in hand to
ensure smooth collaboration and coordination, and the true heroes of a
minimalist bathroom are often “hidden away” behind the wall.
And at the same time, the Inside | Outside motto is
also intended to draw attention to the growing bathroom refurbishment market,
Approx. 16.7 million Germans are planning to invest in
their bathrooms in the near future, and 6.2 million are even planning a
complete overhaul – and according to the B&L Renovation Study, that was
back in spring! Given this background, the sector’s leading international trade
fair, the ISH digital 2021, takes on even more significance. Product concepts
that are specifically intended for refurbishment and modernisation projects
could help the sector take full advantage of the dynamism to be found in this
market and make more efficient use of it, even when staffing levels are low. In
Germany, the refurbishment of private bathrooms is a huge growth market and
will keep us busy for the next 10 to 15 years.
"In the next few years, cosiness, sustainability and smartness will be the three themes that shape tomorrow’s bathroom."
Is the pent-up demand for bathroom refurbishment
limited to the private sector?
The private sector is undoubtedly one area where demand is
high, but Covid-19 has also resulted in increased requirements with regard to
public and semi-public bathrooms in places like schools, restaurants, event
locations and hotels. And it’s not just hygiene concepts that are in demand:
the ambience plays a vital role as well. To put it another way: in sports
halls, schools, universities and preschools, acceptable bathrooms and toilets
have to meet a certain hygiene standard. Here in Germany, there’s definitely
got a lot of catching up to do in that respect. And in the hospitality sector,
i.e. in cafés, eateries, restaurants and hotels, bathrooms need more lifestyle
appeal. Standards and expectations are definitely rising.
At the ISH 2019, Pop up my Bathroom proclaimed a
new enthusiasm for colour in the bathroom. Which trends are you seeing right
For the ISH digital 2021 we’ll be focusing on three
important trend topics in The Bathroom Experience. In the next few years,
cosiness, sustainability and smartness will be the three themes that shape
tomorrow’s bathroom – that’s why we want to point the way with our Pop up my
What do you mean by a Smart Bathroom?
The bathroom of the future?
Rather than showing the bathroom of a distant future, Pop
up my Bathroom portrays the Smart Bathroom equipped with the technical
possibilities of our time. We were intending to use a combination of products
that are already on the market to create an exemplary Smart Bathroom in the
Europa Hall at the ISH 2021. That would certainly have been a first for the
sector. Now we’re working on the digital implementation of the idea and can
combine the individual components and systems with one another virtually. It’s
fascinating – for us too!
And sustainability remains an important theme, I
We’ve been pointing to sustainability’s increasingly
important role in purchase decisions ever since we first showcased the Green
Bathroom for the ISH 2011. When all the turmoil because of corona has died down
and we’re talking about content more again, sustainability will be one of the
defining themes in professional bathroom planning. For the ISH digital 2021,
we’ll be showing where developments are right now and taking a look into the
“The refurbishment of private bathrooms is a huge growth market.”
And what’s behind the trend you’ve called Living
The Living Bathroom is a response to the still-growing
demand for an individual, comfortable, convenient and cosy wellness retreat in
one’s own four walls. The bathroom has undergone a continuous upgrade in recent
years: cosiness, zeitgeist, fashion and style are very much in demand as the
cornerstones of a professionally planned bathroom, as are modern usage concepts
that enhance the quality of the space and permit health-related activities.
It’s featuring more furniture and more fabrics, is more flexible and more
attractive – and there’s no shortage of old bathrooms that are waiting to be
Can you already say to what extent corona will have
an impact on how people use the bathroom and how bathrooms are planned?
There’s definitely a shift in perception. Our member
companies are seeing increased demand for products with added hygiene benefits
– things like touchless taps or soap and disinfectant dispensers. But there’s
also a growing demand for antibacterial finishes or hygienic shower toilets. In
the hospitality sector, these hygiene conveniences meet with a very positive
response from guests. And that has a knock-on effect on the planning of private
bathrooms. A lot of people don’t want to go without that level of hygiene and
convenience in their own four walls any more. It’s also interesting that an
enhanced standard of hygiene in the bathroom often goes hand in hand with
measures that improve sustainability.
What does more convenient hygiene have to do with
Touchless taps use less water, smooth finishes and
optimised, rimless toilets help save on cleaning products, and shower toilets
reduce the amount of toilet paper while simultaneously enhancing the feeling of
cleanliness. More convenient hygiene as a result of innovative products from
the bathroom industry is a win-win situation for users and the environment.
What’s on the Pop up my Bathroom agenda before the
ISH digital 2021 kicks off?
After relaunching the website in summer 2020, we’re in the
process of stepping up our publication frequency. We’re also responding to the
numerous requests for a newsletter and will be publishing a regular trend
newsletter from now on. We’ll be presenting the Smart Bathroom, Green Bathroom
and Living Bathroom before the ISH digital 2021 gets underway. For us, the ISH digital 2021 will be an
occasion to showcase the new products from The Bathroom Experience.