By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Newton, Iowa -- Maytag is tapping into the warehouse club channel of distribution.
Beginning this month, the major appliance maker will ship its flagship Maytag brand washers, dryers, ranges dishwashers and refrigerators to Sam's Club, the membership warehouse club division of Wal-Mart.
The first wave of Maytag majaps was expected to appear in Sam's Club stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area last week, and the rollout will continue to hit selected markets over the next several months. All 462 Sam's units are expected to carry the line by the first quarter of next year.
At the time of the announcement, William Beer, then president of Maytag's major appliance division, said the move was clearly designed with volume in mind.
"We expect to generate meaningful revenue growth in the future through Sam's Club, because we're confident the Maytag brand will be well-accepted and appreciated by Sam's Club members," Beer said.
According to Carole Uhrich, president of Maytag's Home Solutions group, which includes both majap and floor care products, the deal represents an extension of the company's relationship with Sam's Club, which already carries its Hoover-branded line.
Maytag's decision to sell the warehouse channel continues the trend by majap makers to offer their flagship brands to high-volume, low-cost national chains. Indeed, the company announced last April that it will supply its Maytag and high-end Jenn-Air lines to The Home Depot, where it will share floor space with GE as part of the building supply chain's rapid expansion into white goods.
Similarly, Whirlpool last month agreed to sell its top-of-the-line KitchenAid products to Lowe's as part of what the two companies called an "enhanced business relationship."
Independent dealers and their buying groups are concerned that manufacturers are devaluing their better lines by selling them through discount chains and that they will be unable to compete with the big-box retailers on price.
With its customer base of some 39 million members, Sam's Club is the nation's ninth-largest appliance retailer, according to TWICE's Top 100 Majap Retail Registry, with 1999 white-goods sales of $160 million.
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