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Thanks in large measure to Best Buy, which has demonstrated a willingness to embrace alternative white goods brands, Asian majap powerhouses Haier, LG and Samsung have managed to establish a solid beachhead within the U.S. market in a relatively short time.
Pressing their advantage, the trio introduced an expanded range of kitchen and laundry products at last month's Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) here, in the hope that buying groups and regional chains might also enlist them as counterweights against the traditional brands now shared with the home improvement channel.
For Haier America, K/BIS provided a launching pad for new niche lines including the Hand-Wash washing system, designed to launder fine washables. The unit dispenses with a central agitator in favor of a patented pulsator, which creates a cascading motion that allows lingerie, silks and synthetics to move gently through a series of continuous waterfalls.
The waterfalls change direction every few seconds, creating a wash movement that removes soil and residue while protecting delicate fabrics. In addition, a pendulum wash sprays water in a left-to-right direction during the wash and rinse cycles for optimum cleaning.
The unit itself is 24 inches wide, and features a see-through top door; 24-hour delayed timer; quick sink adapter; 10 water level options; a balance indicator; an end of cycle signal; and a 13.2-pound capacity, stainless steel tub. It's priced to retail for $500.
The Sino-American joint venture also introduced its first line of water coolers, including a 13 x 18-inch desktop version with 2-, 3- and 5-gallon water bottle capacities. Product manager Pankaj Paleja described the five-model collection as "a utilitarian line ideal for the home, office, dorms and apartments both big and small." Suggested retails range from $90 to $200.
Rounding out Haier's new offerings was the BrewMaster beer dispenser line, another new category for the company. Available at month's end in stainless steel and black options, the half-keg capacity units also feature two full-width wire shelves that allow the dispensers to double as 6.4 cubic foot refrigerators. Suggested retails will range from $900 to $1,149.
Meanwhile, South Korea's LG Electronics' Digital Appliance Division built upon its refrigeration foundation with new bottom mount and side-by-side models. The former, available in 19.7- and 22.4-cubic-foot capacities, feature the company's exclusive multi-airflow system that outfits all shelves with venting ducts, plus a Design-A-Door shelving system that allows shelves to move both horizontally and vertically.
The bottom mounts are also available with conventional left or right reversible door as well as a tilting freezer drawer option, while the 22.4 tilt draw model also features an external water dispenser, which is more commonly found in side-by-sides. Available this month in white, bisque, black, stainless, titanium and high-gloss white, the units are priced to retail within a range of $799 to $1,849.
The side-by-sides, available in 20- and 23-cubic-foot sizes, feature an electronic temperature control system with temperature readout, curved aluminum handles and a sleek new design, as "convenience and style are important for every room in the house, especially the kitchen," explained division president Simon Kang. The units are currently available for shipping, and will retail between $1,199 and $2,199.
On the microwave oven front, LG also showed its new Glide & Cook unit, which features a unique sliding tray system that accommodates 12-inch by 15-inch rectangular dishes, allowing consumers to cook more food than conventional turntable models. The oven features inverter technology for consistent heating, 1,170 watts of power and a 1.9-cubic-foot cavity. Shipping begins this month with suggested retails ranging from $499 to $549.
Refrigeration was also central to Samsung, which followed up last year's major appliance debut with a line of full-size built-in models. Available in bottom mount and side-by-side configurations, the platform features the company's patented twin cooling system, which employs dual evaporators and fans for independent operation of the refrigerator and freezer compartments. The units also boast multiple air flow vents, digital temperature display and control, and power freeze/power cool functions that quickly restores interior temperatures after the doors have been opened.
The side-by-side units feature tall-glass automatic water and ice dispenser as standard equipment, while step-up models offer beverage stations with easy-access doors; reusable deodorizers; drawers with special multi-function temperature controls; and freezer compartments with tempered glass shelves and tilt pocket door bins.
The built-in bottom mounts give the user access to four doors (two per compartment), and a slotted door storage system that allows cool air to flow from both the top and the bottom to food stored on the door.
TWICE's continuing K/BIS coverage will conclude with a roundup of more new products in the next issue (May 19).
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.