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In years past, Maytag Appliances president Bill Beer spoke prophetically of a time when consumers would no longer wait until their commodity appliances broke down before replacing them, and then would do so with fully-featured, margin-rich trade-up products. He called it "want-in vs. wear-out."
That time, Beer pronounced at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, held here earlier this month at the McCormick Place convention center, has finally arrived.
"We got there," he told TWICE, pointing to a plethora of innovative product stories in every category under his Maytag, Amana and KitchenAid brand families — including the novel, space-saving Neptune Drying Center. "Consumers are saying 'It's cool, I want one,' even though they don't need one," Beer observed. "Traditionally, the washer purchase drove the dryer purchase. Now, for the first time in Maytag history, it's the other way around."
As a result of such new product concepts, and refinements of older ones, Maytag has outperformed the industry during the first quarter, and is on track to maintain its lead throughout the balance of the year. No small feat, Beer noted, since business overall is "considerably better than we expected it to be," with year-to-date sales up 12 percent to 15 percent industry-wide.
"Even with tough comps ahead, my outlook for the industry is optimistic," he said. "It could be a third record year."
Meanwhile, the company is moving ahead on the global front as it forges new offshore relationships to supplement capacity and lower costs. These include a strategic partnership with Samsung, which matches the latter's engineering, electronics and manufacturing prowess with Maytag's marketing strength and brand equity. The first fruits of the pairing are a KitchenAid-made Samsung rangetop, introduced at the show, and a full-size, Korean-crafted laundry offering for Maytag due later this year.
Maytag has also contracted with Daewoo to provide for all of its top -mount refrigeration needs, as the company redeploys its production capacity to the growing bottom mount and side-by-side categories. That capacity will be supplemented mid-year by Maytag's first Mexican plant, which Beer described as the "newest, most advanced, lowest-cost refrigeration plant in the world."