Tension between KitchenAid and Vitamix led to Whirlpool taking over Peter McInnes

KitchenAid is a modern design classic.

KitchenAid is a modern design classic.

It’s been a move six months in the making and it’s come on the back of 11 great years. It was midway through 2014 when the KitchenAid small appliance division at the Michigan, United States, based Whirlpool Corporation contacted Alan Coupe from Peter McInnes to discuss the possibility of converting from an authorised distributor model to a subsidiary. New products were in the pipeline and Whirlpool wanted to secure a streamlined route from the American manufacturer to Australian retailers.

“We’ve been in touch and we’ve worked very closely with KitchenAid all along,” Coupe, now the general manager of KitchenAid Australia, told me today. “It came about because there was a recognition of the work we have done. We saw there was a lot of new product coming and KitchenAid were very keen to get hold of our distribution here in Australia.

“The process was mooted for at least six months, from the time we started the discussion to when we finally transacted.”

Wanting to own the distribution channel is only part of the reasoning, however, with Coupe admitting that friction was beginning to arise between Whirlpool and the parent company of another Peter McInnes brand, Vitamix.

“KitchenAid approached us,” Coupe explained. “Internally, we were feeling there was some heat with the Vitamix distribution and the KitchenAid distribution, and having two great brands under the one umbrella was causing both parties some dissatisfaction at the manufacturing level.

“As Peter McInnes, we tried to resolve that but it was becoming apparent that we couldn’t find a resolution that was going to be satisfactory to both parties.”

Vitamix has confirmed to Appliance Retailer that, going forward, it will be wholesaling via a direct presence in Australia and New Zealand.

(Another brand formerly distributed by Peter McInnes is robot vacuum label Neato. We understand Neato has found a new distributor and we will bring you details of that as soon as it is confirmed.)

Back on KitchenAid, Coupe said that around the world, Whirlpool likes to distribute its own products through subsidiaries. KitchenAid Australia will only be handling the KitchenAid brand — there will be none of the other brands in the wider family, like Maytag, Jenn-Air, Admiral, Indesit or the eponymous Whirlpool — with small appliances continuing apace and the real possibility of majors down the line.

“That’s a decision that is going to be made by KitchenAid’s whitegoods division,” he said. “KitchenAid’s small appliance division is separate. Really, we don’t have a great deal of impact on the majors. KitchenAid majors are in Europe, so they are currently in the 220-to-240 volt range.

“I know it is a consideration they are thinking about.”

When asked about what new products we could expect from KitchenAid, Coupe was understandably tightlipped, saying he’d “prefer to announce them as they are coming out”.  He did let slip, however, that there will be impending launches of some new cooking products and coffee appliances, as well as additional blenders and mixers. Some of these new products are due in the short term, while others are described as being “on the horizon”.

Having worked so closely with KitchenAid over the past 11 years, Coupe has developed quite a passion for the brand. And It’s a love affair that is shared by KitchenAid’s loyal customers.

“We’ve got a lot of passionate gourmets out there. The product stands for reliability. One of the most amazing things about working for KitchenAid is seeing mixers turn up that are 30 years old and still have the parts for us to get them up and working again.

“KitchenAid has got a platform that has been around for a long time and reliability is a key component of it, along with word of mouth and people sharing it. It’s a great looking product.”

Selected KitchenAid appliances in a brilliant bold red.

Selected KitchenAid appliances in a brilliant bold red.

KitchenQuotes with inaugural KitchenAid GM Alan Coupe 

The SodaStream partnership…

They arrived in the last month of Peter McInnes and we’ve got distribution in Myer and David Jones. There will be distribution push on that going forward but it is still very early days to be able to comment on where that’s heading. The retailers that have seen it have been keen to give it a chance.

Autonomy…

The Australian market, relatively, is so small compared to the overall business that provided we deliver the results that we will be given autonomy.

The failure of past Whirlpool subsidiaries…

I believe the reason Whirlpool selected Peter McInnes is because of our success and the reason the team is still in place is because they don’t want too much of a shift from the current strategy. It’s a fact that an international manufacturer actually put a business in Newcastle, that’s got to be a vote of confidence in the team.

Practical changes…

We’ve had to change our emails over from Microsoft SME products to Google Apps. It’s a whole new learning curve for us, going from of an organisation with fewer than 100 people to an organisation with 70,000 employees.

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