By Claire Reilly

2011 has been a tough year for many manufacturers, with GFC mach 2 making waves in Australia and cautious consumer spending taking its toll on sales across the appliance industry.

One company that has certainly felt the pressure this year is Fisher & Paykel. When the company issued its half-yearly financial results last month, it revealed that a series of necessary one-off expenses had caused a 90 per cent drop in profits.

While those kind of figures are daunting on paper, Fisher & Paykel general manager of marketing, Peter Russell, insists that the company is taking the hard knocks now in order to prepare for a brighter future.

“Undeniably it’s been a tough year for everyone,” said Russell. “But we’ve done an awful lot of work, taking the big hits and getting everything in order for the years going forward.

“During these years when we think there’s not a lot of good news coming from any quarter, that’s when we’ve chosen to take all the hits and spend the money on all the stuff behind the scenes – building new factories and producing new lines – so there’s an awful lot coming down the production line for the next two years.”

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As far as products go, Russell said the coming year would see plenty of innovation from F&P, with new technologies and appliances to come to the retail floor. While the finer details are still being closely guarded, there is apparently plenty to look forward to.

“Going forward, in April we’ve got a whole bunch of cooking releases and cooking category releases, so April’s very busy for us. We have companion products coming out – like built-in coffee makers and steam ovens and so on – but our different take on things is that these can be lined up four high, which no other brand in the world can do. So there’s our unique point in that space.

“September is our Dynamic Cooking Systems Outdoor Grill range,” he added, referring to the American-style barbecue grills that were previewed at the Good Food & Wine Show this year.

“October is all about our ActiveSmart refrigeration range – there’s a whole bunch of new stuff coming out there. And November and December is laundry. We can’t telegraph our intentions in these categories, but it’s a very full agenda.”

F&P’s products are being supported by a new ad campaign that was recently launched on TV and in print, which is part of a broader “brand reappraisal” that the company is working on. This increased focus on the brand is happening at a global level, but according to Russell, it will also be very visible at a local level.

“Retailers will see much higher levels of training and they’ll see much better and more logical point of sale which relates heavily to the brand campaign. They’ll see premium-level consistency across all touch points, so it will be a great brand to work with.”