It has been a tough year for many in the appliance industry, with consumers tightening the purse strings and staying cautious amidst a time of financial instability across the globe. Despite this, high-end appliance manufacturer Asko has performed well, and is finishing a year of positive growth.

Current spoke to Asko’s national marketing manager, James Vogdanos, about the year that was and the company’s continuing success.

What kind of year has Asko had in 2011?

We’re up. Those who want quality are not really affected by what’s going on around them. Yes they may look for a slightly better-priced quality product, but most high-end brands will have a parameter of prices. So it’s been a good year for us. It’s been tough [for many brands] as far as promotional activities go, but as far as units are concerned and what we’re turning over, we’re up.

How has Asko’s product range performed over the year?

We deal in two separate universes. The immediate purchase really is the washer – it breaks down, you do your research and you need it tomorrow or the next day, because your laundry pile is now mounting. Kitchen on the other hand very much is a slow burn. It can take 6 or 12 months, by the time you get a kitchen designed, someone to build and install, and even prior to that when you start to select products. So that’s a very slow process. Then there’s the other side of the coin – consumers are out of the market for a very long time.

But laundry is all about immediacy. Some of the key drivers are the same – people want performance, quality, durability, the best possible features, the best possible price of course – but how they get to that decision is very different.

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Is your relationship with retailers important in conveying your message?

That’s right. We’re a proforma brand, so the key for us is to really communicate the benefits and for retailers to relay those benefits in the same way [to consumers]. That’s the hardest part, that’s the missing link between consumers and retailers these days. Because consumers can go direct to websites, they can go direct to forums and blogs, Facebook, anywhere they want, and they’ll find information that could be different to what the retailer’s saying. So there’s a fine line between them saying what we want them to say and what they communicate to the end consumer. But it’s something with pro forma brands that’s easier to control.

Is it a good thing to be a pro forma brand?

For us it is. It’s slower at retail level – it’s harder to push stock through. But we control the price, we control what the retailer is going to sell it for. So for a consumer, without them knowing, when they search for a product it’s always the same price and they won’t get dudded on price.