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Professor Youngme Moon and Research Associate Kerry Herman prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Some data have been modified or disguised.
Copyright © 2002 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School. YOUNGME MOON
Aqualisa Quartz: Simply a Better Shower
Plumbing hasn’t changed since Roman times.
— Tim Pestell, Aqualisa national sales manager
Harry Rawlinson (HBS ‘90) shrugged out of his overcoat and headed to the reception desk of the South Kent County Marriott. “Can you direct me to the breakfast room?” he asked, “I’m meeting some guests from America.” The receptionist pointed toward a hallway lined with photographs of the region’s golf fairways and putting greens. “It’s just to the left down there,” she said. As he strode down the narrow corridor, Rawlinson, managing director of Aqualisa (see Exhibit 1), a U.K. shower manufacturer, felt a surge of energy. He had been looking forward to this opportunity to discuss an HBS case possibility.
In May 2001 Aqualisa had launched the Quartz shower, the first significant product innovation in the U.K. shower market since—well, to Rawlinson’s mind—since forever. But here it was early September 2001, and the euphoria surrounding the product’s initial launch had long since faded. Rawlinson knew the Quartz was technologically leaps and bounds above other U.K. showers in terms of water pressure, ease of installation, use, and design. But for some reason, it simply wasn’t selling. The U.K. Shower Market
Rawlinson leaned forward as he began to explain his situation. Showers in the U.K. were plagued with problems. While everyone had a bathtub, only about 60% of U.K. homes had showers. Archaic plumbing, some of it dating to the Victorian era, was still common in many homes. For the most part this plumbing was gravity fed; a cold-water tank or cistern sat somewhere in the roof, while a separate boiler and cylinder were needed to store hot water in a nearby airing cupboard. Gravity-fed plumbing meant poor-to-low water pressure, about 3 to 4 liters per minute.1 Gravityfed plumbing also created frequent fluctuations in pressure, which caused the temperature to noticeably vary from minute to minute. If the pressure from the cold-water pipe decreased momentarily, the flow from the hot water pipe would increase, immediately raising the temperature. 1 Water pressure in the United States, in contrast, is generally at least 18 liters per minute. 502-030 Aqualisa Quartz: Simply a Better Shower
These two problems—low pressure and fluctuations in temperature—were typically addressed through the use of either electric showers or special U.K. shower valves. 1. Electric showers used water from the cold water supply. Electrical heating elements in the shower instantaneously heated the water to the required temperature, eliminating the need for a boiler to store hot water. While this made electric showers convenient for small bathrooms, the electrical components were usually mounted in a bulky white box that was visible in the shower stall. In addition, electric showers did nothing to address the poor water flow of many showers in U.K. homes, since the flow was limited by the amount of energy that could be applied to heat the water...
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