Gadget Vendors Stress Service, Merchandising


Kitchen utensil makers are relying on customer service, merchandising and low prices to increase sales. For example, Ekco Housewares Co guarantees that it will ship orders complete within 72 hours. OXO International keeps its prices low, in line with the most popular prices for kitchen gadgets. Its peelers retail for $5.99. Effecting marketing techniques that pair kitchen gadgets in the areas of a grocery store that they will be used in also can increase sales. For example, pairing displays of seafood gadgets over the seafood counter is but one effective marketing technique to increase sales.

NEW YORK–While “upscale” was the buzzword in the gadget industry moving into this year, vendors’ talk of potential growth in 1994 is punctuated with a new rap: “service, service, service.”

Though not a new concern, service is emerging as the area on which vendors are leaning to make strides in sales through the mid-1990s. At the same time, the overwhelming emphasis on product development to cater to an upscale market segment over the past two years is subsiding. (more…)

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B&D to enter wet-dry hand vac market with Spillbuster


B & D to enter wet/dry hand vac market with Spillbuster

SHELTON, Conn. — Black & Decker has confirmed that it will introduce a wet/dry hand vac called spillbuster and a canister vacuum later this year.

Pete Elshout, director of product marketing for Black & Decker’s Home Products division, said, “It’s our intent to expand the cleaner business. Wet/dry hand vacs are a segment to be reckoned with. We will be in it.”

Elshout didn’t offer any detail about the Spill buster or the canister, other than to say that the canister will be sold under the Black & Decker — not Dustbuster — name.

The canister and the Spillbuster have been the subject of industry rumors for several months. Though Elshout confirmed them, he didn’t say when they will be formally introduced. (more…)

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Vac Mfrs. Doubt Whirlpool’s Line Will Impact Mkt


BENTON HARBOR, MI–ALTHOUGH many industry insiders consider Whirlpool’s new vacuum cleaner line formidable, many are not sure of its impact on the retail market.

One reason for the industry’s hesitancy is that few retailers have seen Whirlpool’s program. Discounters in particular, even if presented with a program, doubt they will carry a vac line that has a suggested retail of $159.95-$439.95.

Unlike the retail segment of the market, vac manufacturers are more specific in their reservations about the Whirlpool introduction. While industry leader Hoover, as well as Panasonic, declined to comment, spokesmen at Singer and Eureka are optimistic that Whirlpool’s introduction will not have a detrimental effect on their market shares.

Singer National Sales Director Rick South noted, “We’re not worried about them (Whirlpool) at all,” while Eureka’s new Advertising Manager Dick Smith said, “I don’t think anyone here is that concerned.”

However, industry sources have told HOUSEWARES that if any one manufacturer could be hurt by Whirlpool’s entry, it would be Sharp Electronics. The company’s initial introduction is a canister line aimed at independent dealers, a market that accounts for 12% of all vac sales. It is a market that according to John Geehring, Whirlpool’s general manager of the floor care products division, “We’re going for all 12% of it.”

But a Sharp spokesman told HOUSEWARES, “We’re going to become a major factor in the independent market.

“The vac market in general is such a substantial market I don’t believe initially there will be an impact on our situation. There’s room for so many more,” the Sharp spokesman stressed, “and any market share fights are not a near-term problem for us. Eventually we’ll expand our product line, so our thrust would have to be to gain share, and that share would obviously have to come from the balance of manufacturers in the business.” (more…)

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New Vac Line Won’t Impact For 5 Years


CHICAGO–An air of skepticism from retailers is surrounding Whirlpool’s entry into the brand name vacuum cleaner business.

Initial questions about the line’s 6-SKU rollout in February have been replaced with more about pricing, marketing strategies and market share for the major appliance manufacturer in its new housewares niche.

Industry leaders say they fear no evil from the giant, well-healed Whirlpool. (See story, page 3). But retailers are less sure of the line’s impact.

In exclusive interviews with HOUSEWARES, many retailers admitted they had not seen a presentation, so judgment calls would be premature. Going on gut instinct these retailers stressed that any tremors in the industry probably wouldn’t be felt for another five years.

Reaction from Rich’s Atlanta, Shillito-Rikes Cincinnati, and Burdine’s Miami (a few of the line’s first timers), ranges from tepid to hot. As Buyer Bruce Wyllys at the 14-store Shillito/Rikes admitted, “The line has taken off rather slowly. We didn’t expect it to blow right out the door because of the line’s higher prices. But I’m still a little disappointed in sales so far.”

To promote his units, Wyllys ran a tabloid ad in a Cincinnati newspaper. It featured the 4000 upright at a sale price of $169.99. While more advertising will come later, reaction from this initial ad was disappointing. To curb the downturn, Wyllys noted consumers will need to be educated. (more…)

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Stress Product Features, Use Recognizable Photos in Vac Ads


ATLANTA–While not every retailer has the wherewithal to devote a full-page newspaper ad to vacuum cleaners, even small ads can be made effective, if certain basic guidelines are followed.

That’s the conclusion Merchandising reached after a study of mid-winter vac ads in the nation’s newspaper. Most of the ads followed one of two formats:

* A large (even a full-page) ad featuring nothing but vacuums.

* A large ad in which a number of products, including vacuums, were featured.

No matter what the format, however, the best ads offered full, clear information about the product, a recognizable photo or drawing and details about the particular sale being advertised and the store’s terms.

In fact, one of the best ads was a small one. But it went out of its way to graphically demonstrate the vacuum’s unique features and catch the reader’s eye.

Best ads stress features

Among the vacuum cleaner ads examined by Merchandising, the best one was a full-page ad for Eureka vacuums, placed by Rich’s in Atlanta. The ad was comprehensive, including all the information the consumer would want to know.

Featured were five photos of vacuums–three uprights and two canisters–with detailed feature information. One of the photos was a close-up, which made the styling and the controls very visible. An inset photo of that unit’s attachments was also included. Consumers could clearly see what the models offered and how they looked. (more…)

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Mfrs. Eye Stable sls. in ’85 Vac Mkt.; Say Sticks Will Lead The Way


CHICAGO–Retailers looking to upgrade their floor care lines in quality and price points will find a wide variety of new products fitting those specifications at next week’s NHMA Show.

While retailers have told HOUSEWARES that consumers are searching for a better quality product, will consumers suffer sticker shock when they find the perfect vacuum cleaner?

In the few short months since the end of 1984, several manufacturers–including The Hoover Co. and Whirlpool Corp.–have addressed the public’s demand for a higher quality product with the introduction of their electronic vac lines. Yet these two lines offer a wide price range, geared not to deplete consumers’ savings accounts–from $289.95-$484.95 for the Hoover line and $159.95-$439.95 for the Whirlpool units.

Still the electronics introduced by these major forces in the appliance industry will not overtake the vac market–at least not in 1985.

While more manufacturers will enter the electronic arena, the major resurgence in the market will be in stick units, as evidenced by Eureka’s move to that market with its Quick Up, and Bissell’s introduction of the 3-Way Vac.

According to Ken Klaver, vp/marketing for Bissell, Inc., “The trend in the market is definitely toward smaller vacs, multiple use vacs like our new 3-Way. And while the total vac industry may only see a 5% increase this year, our unit sales are going to more than double.” (more…)

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Customer Service Keeps Them Coming To Vac Dealer


ST. PAUL–It must be the service, all kinds of service, that keeps customers coming back to the A-1 Vacuum Cleaner Co.

After all, where else can a shopper be fully qualified on her cleaning needs? Where else can she choose from among 15 brands? And where else can she get a complete demonstration–either in the store or in her home-and have her own vacuum tested before it leaves the store?

What’s more, A-1 caters to its customers in some even more unusual ways. Shopping bags can be exchanged for free vacuum bags. Pumps can be bought to run antique organs. And special attachments will be invented to pick up popcorn and peanut shells.

It’s all part of a full-service mentality that has driven the family-oriented store into a million-dollar operation that is now on the verge of a western expansion.

Qualifies the customer

Selling a vacuum at A-1 begins with an interview.

“First, the customer asks us, ‘What’s the best car vacuum cleaner ?” said Sam Battisto, who heads up the family-owned company. “We reply with a question about it, ‘What are your cleaning problems?'” (more…)

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Bionaire Adds Vacs To Product Line


FRANKLIN LAKES, NJ — Bionaire is continuing its diversification with the introduction of a line of vacuum cleaners that also serve as rug shampooers and floor polishers. One of the vacs will be available in October and it will carry a suggested retail price of $399. Two more models will be added and will be available for delivery in the Spring of 1985. These unit incorporate a dry foam cartridge that greatly eases the shampooing process.

“It is certainly clear who the big people in the vacuum cleaner category are, and our entry into this area is not a major challenge to them,” said Al Scutte, vp/sales for Bionaire. “However, we are very confident that there is a substantial niche for a unique product such as ours.”

Bionaire is also introducing three humidfiers that are scheduled for shipping in July 1985. These new models will incorporate a transducer manufactured by TDK that eliminates the white dust produced by humidifiers in hard water areas.

“This feature on our humidifiers puts us a couple years ahead of the competition,” Scutte said. “The white dust is a real problem in hard water areas. I’m sure all manufacturers have received this complaint.” (more…)

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