No one likes to do the vacuuming, and in an increasingly time and space poor society, Australians are looking towards leading manufacturers for a solution that is both powerful and convenient. Although there are plenty of solutions for consumers out there, manufacturers are unable to agree on just what makes the perfect vacuum: whether it’s more innovation, making your machine multipurpose, or simply outsourcing the entire chore to robots.
Ask anyone in the floorcare category and there is a chance they may not know about our recent ‘less than ideal’ economic climate. During the 2013 financial year, figures from GfK Australia reported that vacuum cleaners were one of very few technical consumer goods categories that saw any form of solid growth. Units sold were up 1 per cent since on the previous year and the $351 million the category brought in heralded a 10 per cent increase on 12 months beforehand.
In the quarter of calendar 2013, floorcare saw solid double digit value growth, meaning that it accounted for 29 per cent of all small domestic appliance revenue. According to GfK Australia, this growth was driven by robotic, handsticks and upright cleaners, which command a much higher average price than traditional canister-based vacuums.
However, can anyone really put too high a price on easing the pain of the much loathed and lambasted task of vacuuming? The continued growth of the sector signals a resounding ‘no’.
Consumers are willing to pay a well-deserved premium on floorcare products; anything to make the weekly household chore just that bit less difficult to endure. The threat of having to do the vacuuming has consumers crying for products that are powerful and efficient, but also are easy to use while being compact to store.
Success comes to those who listen but while these dual tenets of power and convenience are certainly a main focus for leading manufacturers, no organisation is agreed on what the key is to developing the perfect range of floorcare products. While some believe that the answer to the power/convenience balance lies in extreme technological innovation, others are betting on everything from creating multi-purpose products to developing extremely specialised fare and trusting in autonomous robots.
Perpetual technological frontrunner in the now dominant bagless vacuum market, Dyson maintains that focusing on technological innovation will lead to increased efficiency and convenience for the customer.
Now spending over $3 million each week on technological research and development, managing director of Dyson Australia, Glenn Andrew, is proud of the UK company’s innovation obsession and says that it helps them stand out in a playing field full of imitators.
“People are recognising the gap in performance between Dyson technology and other vacuums,” Andrew said. “Patented and unique, it leads where others poorly imitate.”
Poster child for Dyson’s technological advancements, the Cinetic DC54 range of bagless vacuums are powered by a new, ultra-efficient version of their cyclone system. Each DC54 has been upgraded with cyclones containing flexible, oscillating tips, which extract microscopic particles while ensuring there is no loss of performance or suction.
This innovation in cyclone design is not just of benefit to the customer but also to the retailer, according to Andrew.
“Other vacuums have inefficient cyclones. Over time this can build up, and just like a bag cause a loss of suction. If people take an inefficient vacuum cleaner home they will end up disappointed, frustrated, [and] they’ll be less likely to return to buy again.”
For company founder, Sir James Dyson, the new cyclone design puts the DC54 range head and shoulders above other competing vacuums by addressing one of the main criticisms leveled against bagless systems: filter maintenance.
“Getting rid of bags solved the frustration of my vacuum losing suction. But washing filters — or worse — buying them, is still a nuisance. Dyson Cinetic cyclones are so efficient at separating microscopic particles that everything gets thrust into the bin, and you can forget about fussy filters.”
Dyson has also just released their newest range of cordless stick vacuums, the Digital Slim DC59 series, delivering the same power as a corded vacuum along with extreme mobility and longevity.
Under the hood of the two DC59 models, The Animal (RRP $649) and the MultiFloor (RRP $599), is a specially designed V6 digital motor that delivers 1.5 times more power than the previous iteration.
“After 15 years of research we have the world’s most powerful fully integrated digital motor,” said Glenn Andrew, “Conventional cordless vacuums can’t match the performance.”
However, Dyson’s claim is certainly not without challengers and none have more reason to be vocal than Electrolux. Pioneers of the stick vacuum category, the Swedish home appliance manufacturer recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their best-selling Ergorapido cordless range with a new model.
Released in February, this is the third generation of the Ergorapido 2-in-1 Cordless Stick-Vacuum (RRP $329) and features an upgraded motor fan in combination with a redesigned nozzle head that delivers better airflow efficiency.
The new streamlined and stylish design is, according to product marketing manager of Electrolux, Noel Hsu, a reaction to consumers desiring a more convenient and efficient experience from their floorcare appliances.
“The future of floorcare lays in a stronger focus on benefits for consumers,” said Hsu, “and convenience in cleaning is absolutely crucial. The newest generation of Ergorapido has been designed specifically to meet the cleaning needs and lifestyles of the busy urban dweller.”
For the launch of the new generation of Ergorapido vacuums, Electrolux is currently running a customer promotion to generate consumer buzz, offering a Circa Home scented candle and diffuser with each purchase, valued at just under $60. The promotion runs through until the end of March 2014.
Electrolux is also preparing for the release of its new UltraOne range, a technologically sophisticated model that sports several new innovations, in April 2014. Containing a HEPA 13 filter system (rated to remove 99.95 percent of airborne particles, particularly beneficial to those suffering from allergies), the UltraOne also features a newly designed AeroPro Extreme nozzle and the new Auto Suction system, which automatically adjusts the suction power required for the specific floor type.
The UltraOne will be retailed with two variations: The UltraOne Deluxe (RRP $599) and the UltraOne Power (RRP $699).
Instead of making vacuuming easier through technological innovation, some manufacturers are trying to outsource the task altogether. Prioritising consumer convenience to the next level, LG has entered 2014 with increasing sales of the latest in its range of robotic vacuums, the Roboking Square (RRP $1,239).
Phillip Anderson, head of public relations at LG, said the company’s performance in the consumer floorcare category is the result of products built around customer convenience and simplicity of use.
“With convenience identified as the biggest driver of change, vacuum cleaners in LG’s range are designed to make life easier for the consumer whether through less strain via improved vacuum motions or robotics to take some of the hassle out of cleaning,” Anderson said.
The new Roboking Square features a rounded-square chassis, designed to allow it to clean areas and corners that traditional round robotic vacuums cannot reach. New sensors enable the unit to work autonomously in low-light conditions, while the Dual Eye 2.0 cameras give the robot the ability to map and remember the layout of household rooms.
Also in the robot space is Russell Hobbs. The English brand famous for small appliances is distributed locally by Spectrum Brands, which used to distribute the famous iRobot and Roomba ranges. Those brands have moved on to a new distributor, Brand Developers Australia, meaning Spectrum had an opening for a new brand of robots. That hole is being filled with Russell Hobbs R-Vac robotic vacuums.
“Innovative and intuitive features now play a key part in the purchase decision of floor care consumers,” said product manager Monika Kamienowska. “Hence, it is no surprise that the popularity of robotic vacuum cleaners has grown tenfold over the past five years.
“Up until now, however, one of the key consumer groups of the floor care category has struggled to find a product for their specific needs. At Russell Hobbs, we have recognised the importance of the needs of pet owners and allergy sufferers and, therefore, we are proud to launch the next generation of robotic vacuums, the R-Vac Pet (RRP $499).
The R-Vac Pet combines stiff bristles for vacuuming stubborn pet hair, dander, dirt and debris, with a built-in UV light that sterilises and disinfects floors, killing germs, allergens and odour causing bacteria.
Robot vacuums have the highest average selling price out of all the different types of floorcare products on the market. A standard unit costs $479 (while premium models retail for over $1,000) compared to $231 for the rest of the category. This is good news for retailers that can effectively retail robots while for some consumers the high price difference could act as a repellent. Across the gamut of floorcare appliances, RRPs are on the rise.
Jonathan Peart, development manager of consumer products at Bosch, said the floorcare market is special amongst appliances as retailers and manufacturers are not simply selling a product — they are selling a worthwhile solution to one of the world’s most disliked chores.
“The average sale price in the three major categories (bagged, bagless and handstick) is relatively high, particularly in bagless. However, if retailers are selling a solution, not a product, they shouldn’t need to convince the customer on price,” Peart said. “Floorcare is a unique category as consumers still want to try and test the product in-store before making an investment.”
“Retailers should focus on the benefits and flexibility of the products on offer, rather than selling on price point.”
This focus on increasing benefits is certainly on display with their latest range of bagged and bagless vacuums. This month Bosch’s new range of Runn’n compact bagless vacuums will hit shelves. Designed for smaller households, the Runn’n Essentials model (RRP $399) operates at just 74dB while the Runn’n ProSilence (RRP $499) features the quietest high-performance nozzle on the market, running at a miniscule 61dB or roughly as loud as an average conversation.
The unit also features other consumer benefits, such as a relatively large 1.7L canister, and the new SensorBagless system that detects when the HEPA 14 rated filter needs manual cleaning. This filter is also given a lifetime warranty and will never need to be replaced, meaning that maintenance is not something that an end user will ever have to worry about.
To mark the release of the Runn’n range Bosch, in partnership with Adidas, will be holding a promotion called “Get Runn’n with Bosch” at all Harvey Norman outlets across Australia. Consumers will be offered an Adidas gift card to the value of $50 when they purchase a Bosch Runn’n Vacuum cleaner. A national trade launch event will be held in March 2014 to showcase the new range and its innovative features to retailers.
Bosch also has its Relaxx’x range on the market. The range is among the quietest available (running at 68dB) and contains Bosch’s SelfClean system to cleanse the filter automatically when required. There are several specialised models to suit different customer needs, including an All Floors model and the Zoo’o ProAnimal, which was designed with pet owners and those with allergies in mind.
Despite the popularity of bagless vacuum cleaners, Miele is standing behind traditional bagged models claiming increased rates of dust capture, hygiene and easy-to-clean designs as evidence of their superiority.
“It is imperative that consumers are advised that bagged vacuum cleaners offer an incomparable solution,” said Sharon May, product manager of floorcare at Miele ANZ.
“Not only are they user friendly and require no washing of the filter, one of the biggest benefits of bagged cleaners is the hygienic dirt disposal, critical for homes with children, asthmatics and allergy sufferers.”
“Cleaning bagless machines is also dirty business. Upon emptying bagless machines, plumes of dust that are visible as well as more hazardous fine particles that cannot be seen, are often breathed in. This is no longer an issue with a sealed bagged vacuum cleaner.”
The crown jewel of their bagged vacuum lineup is the S8 range, with the top spot being taken by the S 8590 Miele Premium S8 UniQ (RRP $1,199), touted by the company as “the best vacuum cleaner range Miele has ever developed”.
Decked out with velvet bumpers and an accessories pouch, and finished in brown mahogany metallic, the S 8590 also features a HEPA 12 filter (rated to remove 99.95 percent of dust particles) and Miele’s Silence System to make the vacuum extremely quiet.
Adding a touch of sportscar luxury, Miele has included two sets of lights to the S 8590: The DeLuxe handle with Spotlight, to illuminate every nook and cranny, and an Illuminated Park System to ensure easy insertion and to provide “an elegant carpet of light while vacuuming”. It is clear Miele is creating a cleaning solution that is not only beneficial to a customer’s health but is also designed for those who are used to the finer things in life.
Not everyone, however, is as opulent as some of the bigger brands. And according to Garth Michaelson, Managing Director of Cleanstar, that’s exactly the reason that their brand is so appealing, not just to consumers but also to floorcare retailers.
Michaelson said floorcare, “is a category that still has the potential to offer margin…but this margin is being eroded by cheap internet offers and an increasing proliferation of sellers jockeying for sales.
“Where Cleanstar is different is that we offer our customers massive margins on the products that we sell. Big brands are nice to stock as they bring feet into the store but there is hardly any money in selling them anymore. Specialist floorcare retailers love our products simply because there is great margin in the products we sell, and our footprint in the big retailers is negligible, so discounting of our products is minimal.”
On average, Cleanstar offers a wide range of budget options and is merchandised to be very appealing not only to those more inclined to be frugal but also to those who want to support Australian business. Moreover, the Australian-owned manufacturer has one of the biggest ranges of vacuum cleaner bags and spare parts in the country, and not only for their own brand.
The high-end unit for Cleanstar is the Platinum V436 (RRP $799), an all-rounder machine bundled into a compact but powerful package. Usable on almost any floor type, the V436 excels at devouring pet hair, and its bagged design (with a large 5-litre capacity) and HEPA rated filter make it a good sell to those with pets or allergies.
Kristine Collins, Product Manager of Sebo Australia, echoed Cleanstar’s statement that smaller brands are the best choice to sell for retailers.
“With competition fierce there is a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd and lead the field by embracing new suppliers of technology.”
Bidding to lure consumers with a mix of style and customisability, along with the small footprint and manoeuvrability that the upright vacuum segment brings, Sebo’s fashion-conscious Felix Rosso Upright is designed to be the perfect fit for those busy urban dwellers primarily living in apartments (RRP $1,199).
Coming in a range of colours and patterns, multiple easy-to-maintain attachments mean the Felix Rosso is equipped to tackle any floor type from carpet to hard wood. It also has an extremely high-grade HEPA filter (removing 99.99 percent of fine dust) and was awarded a seal of approval from the British Allergy Foundation.
For those customers wanting a little extra polish from their machine, the Sebo Ultra High Speed Polishing Head (RRP $599) can be purchased separately to attach to any of Sebo’s Felix or K3 range. The attachment does not require any chemicals or water to run and is suitable to polish everything from wood to vinyl and terrazzo.
Supplying quality multipurpose floorcare products is one solution for pleasing an increasingly time and space poor consumer landscape. Business manager for Kambrook, Adam Tacey, said, “Today’s consumers are looking for quick and convenient solutions to tackle everyday tasks and floorcare is no exception.
“As demonstrated in recent years with small kitchen appliances, affordable and multipurpose products get attention for both their space-saving benefits and overall value.”
For 2014, Kambrook is reinvigorating itself with a fresh family look and an increasing variety of floorcare products, with the hero of the new range being the Captiv2in1 Turbo Stick Vacuum (RRP $149).
The stick/handheld vacuum combo “will suit those customers looking for a lightweight and easy-to-store floorcare solution with the versatility of both upright vacuuming and handheld convenience,” said Tacey.
UK brand Vax, distributed in Australia by Techtronic Industries, disagrees with the assessment that multipurpose products are the most successful way to go when pursuing the goal of the ‘perfect’ vacuum.
“As the number one selling floorcare brand in the UK, our products are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution,” said assistant brand manager Sarah Springer, “instead, they are customised to suit every cleaning requirement in the home.
“There has been quite a shift in the traditional area of floor cleaning. Where the consumer would have just a vacuum cleaner and maybe a handheld cleaner in the cupboard, we’re now seeing that this isn’t the case anymore. Consumers are looking for the specific solution to suit their needs, and so now there is a suite of products in the laundry or the cupboard to suit their exact cleaning requirements.”
Despite Vax’s assessment that specialised units are the more appealing product, Springer went on to add that wanting to own a wider range of products does not mean consumers are willing to give up more space in their homes or sacrifice on performance.
“If they’re going to have a number of products to suit their specific need, this doesn’t mean that the normal cleaning tasks should take any longer than they used to or take up that much more storage space.”
“While convenience is rated quite highly, performance will still be key. Consumers continue to become sharper at expecting certain performance levels in relation to the amount spent on their home appliances.”
With this in mind, Vax will be revealing a whole swathe of new products for its popular ‘Air’ range. The range, consisting of several bagless multi-cyclonic machines (RRP $249-to-$449), do not compromise on power or efficiency while being “so light and compact they’re extremely easy to carry upstairs and store in tight spaces”.
To add to this, Vax also has its range of Air3 upright vacuums to suit those end users needing a powerful but portable cleaning solution. The Air motion technology included in the Air3 gives the unit extreme mobility, perfect for cleaning small rooms or around tight furniture.
From the number one brand in the UK to the number one brand in the US. Bissell recently dethroned Hoover as the Yanks’ favourite floorcare brand in a market dominated by upright cleaning. The company is now looking to increase its market share and profile in Australia. The focus will start on its heritage in deep cleaning and will then transition to other cleaning types more common in Australia, according to national marketing manager John Brenner.
“Bissell continues to see strong growth in both the Steam and Deep Cleaning categories,” he said. “Increasingly consumers are replacing their current entry level steam mops with higher priced units with enhanced features.
“Our two bestselling units, the Lift-Off Steam and the PowerFresh, are our premium models commanding a high ASP. As with canister vacuums, the consumer is willing to pay for a brand they trust and a product that is unique to the others on the market.
Brenner said that early in the second quarter of 2014, Bissell will launch new products into the steam category that he believes will change the way people think about cleaning their hard floors.
“Deep Cleaning is a category that continues to grow in household penetration. It does demand the retailer’s attention in stores as the category is still unknown to many consumers,” he said.
“While purchasing a vacuum, the salesperson can simply ask, ‘That’s great — you have a new vacuum — but what do you do about stains and spills?’.
“This opens up the discussion with the consumer and informs them of the benefits of deep cleaning.”