Vacuum sales bring cheer

As another record-breaking year of vacuum sales drew to a close, floor-care buyers were, for the most part, projecting a positive holiday season and predicting another interesting year.

“Every year Christmas seems to be later and later, and the competitive arena gets more aggressive, and there’s more price cutting lower and even earlier, so it remains to be seen” what the season will bring, cautioned Kmart’s veteran floor-care buyer Dennis Dorn.

Although at press time tallies weren’t in for the most important Christmas selling period–the 10 days prior to Dec. 25 and the week-long post-Christmas rush–most retailers weren’t anticipating a downturn in sales.

Purchase of full-sized vacuums in 1993 are expected to surpass last year’s record 11.7 million: Sales of full-size vacuums in the first 10 months of the year have already nearly topped that figure, with January through October purchases of uprights, canisters and stick vacuums logging in at 11.1 million, according to statistics compiled for the Vacuum Cleaners Manufacturers Association.

Leading up to the weeks before Yule, buyers noted a varied pool of better-selling products. Some, like Dorn, called 1993 a “basic year,” with no single category standing out

The holiday season appears to be wrapping up a year of carryover trends, with consumers’ continuing their bent toward attached-tool upright vacuums, a fourth-quarter taste for hand vacs and appetites whetted by own-your-own extraction machines.

“Uprights are still the leaders by far,” said a buyer for an East Coast department store. “The World Vac line by Eureka is definitely doing well. It’s a good buy, and they contribute to world wildlife: Buying it contributes to a good conscience.”

Minnetonka, Minn.-based Fingerhut’s vice president of merchandising Dick Tate also acknowledged that canister sales continued to slump in the wake of the upright.

Playing the devil’s advocate, Ray Brown, the vacuum buyer for Chicago-based Sears, said canisters have been doing well in his stores, with fourth-quarter Kenmore brand introductions posting “surprising” growth.

Falling in line with industry statistics, Brown also said the massive retailer hass seen double-digit increases in upright vac sales over the year.

“We’ve had great success–strong double-digit increases in high-end uprights across the board,” he noted. “A lot of that might be economy-driven. People are starting to spend a little more.”

Another commonality reported by retailers is customers’ new-found willingness to reach deeper into their pockets.

See more: Manual vacuum cleaner

“Any higher-rated amp is what’s selling, so really my best price points are $139 to $149. That would be a hard-case, nine-to-10-amp vac,” said a buyer for a West Coast chain. “The weak price point is the $99 price point–it’s either the low-end $59 or the high-amp $149 vac. I find it a pleasant change.”

“Hoover has done an extremely good job with the PowerMax, the [company’s] better unit,” noted a buyer for a national chain. Tool-built-in uprights in the PowerMax series carry retail prices from $250 to $350.

Betty Smith of the Mr. Sweeper Stores chain in Atlanta agreed high-end machines like Royal’s metal vac shop line, also at $200-plus, have been moving with the aid of demonstration.

As would be expected, buyers’ observation melded with statistics collected by Trendata, a Norwalk, Conn. firm that tracks purchases in a variety of categories (see box). Percentages are based upon a sampling of 50,000 U.S. households and reflect the total market, accordinf to Trendata president Lew Pappalardo.

With the fourth-quarter buying season still incomplete, comparisons among third-quarter 1993 and the full years of 1991 and 1992 indicate the consistent rise of upright vacuum sales at the expense of canister purchases.

The figures also show a rise in deep cleaner sales. Both manufacturers and retailers have said that consumers’ growing interest in the category is due to manufacturers’ concerted advertising efforts.

Practicality has played a part, too, according to Sears’ Brown.

“We’ve actually been on a roll for the last six months with those,” he said. “They hit their peak around the pre-season because those folks that buy them want to touch up their carpets around the holidays.”

Wet/dry vacuum sales have been slipping, according to Trendata, although the entrace of new players, and their advertising, could affect those figures.

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