BRIDGEPORT, CT–Domestic floor care manufacturers are by far and away the winners in the import war. Unlike their peers in the glassware and cookware industries, who have suffered tremendous blows from imports in recent years, domestic vacum cleaner manufacturers report little if any interference from overseas.
A report on imports from the U.S. Department of Commerce substantiates the strength of domestic vac manufacturers. Full-size vac imports in 1984 totaled 434,000 units, a figure that barely makes a dent in sales reported by domestic manufacturers of nearly 8.1 million units.
And while that same government report notes that imports of rechargeable hand vacs reached the 1.8 million unit level in 1984, domestic manufacturers remain unworried. A Black & Decker spokesperson stated that even though more rechargeable hand vacs are entering this country under well-known brand names, consumers realize the low quality and performance of the units, and will remain loyal to higher quality products like the Dustbuster line.
“The hand-held market has continued to expand,” the B&D spokesperson continued, “so imports have not impacted domestic manufacturers.” She added that while imports are not yet a substantial part of the rechargeable hand-held market, “they’re a continuing factor.”
The Hoover Co.’s Dave Evans told HOUSEWARE that imports have made little impact on the full-size vac market. “With the depth necessary for floor care to penetrate this market, importers don’t have the response time needed in manufacturing and delivery that we as a domestic manufacturer have. That gives us a greater advantage,” the vice president noted.
Evans added that imports are making their presence felt in the rechargeable hand cleaner market where a manufacturer needs only one or two units to make an impact on the market.
A Complex Market
Eureka Advertising Manager Dick Smith agreed with Evans’ evaluation of the import market. “Other housewares businesses lend themselves more easily to being knocked off by imports. But the complexity of the vacuum cleaner business is such that an importer is going to have tough going making a name for themselves in this market.”
At Douglas Products, President Bill Nehren stressed that his company is committed to being a low-cost, quality producer of American-made goods.
“We will continue, where economically and practically feasible, to build and create our products in the United States, and react to the marketplace with innovative products,” Nehren explained.
Wet/Dry Vacs Safe
Tom Guise at Shop-Vac Corp. and Mike Reilly from Genie Home Products agreed that in the wet/dry category, the impact from imports is nil. “Imports have not hurt domestic production,” Guise said. “Their product is for the accounts who are not intyerested in brand name merchandise and service to the customer.”
Guise added that while imports have made few inroads in the U.S., “They’re still a thorn in our sale. They’re shipping a fairly good product at extremely low prices.”
Reilly anticipates that floor care imports will never capture more than an 8%-10% market share. “There are too many domestic manufacturers who have too much power to let what’s happened in cookware happen in floor care,” he stressed.
Bissell VP Ken Klaver explained that since the vac market as a whole is stable, imports are bound to take a market share from domestic manufacturers. He added that while imports have not affected Bissell’s stick category, “Imports will keep cutting be little, if anything, we can do to stop it.”
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