By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Having filled the kitchen with its refrigerators and ranges, the laundry room with its washers and dryers, the bedroom with its Personal Valet clothes refresher, and the bathroom with its Cielo bathtubs, Whirlpool is now turning its attention to what it regards as the "final frontier" of the house: the garage.
Tapping into what market research suggested was an unmet need, the nation's largest majap maker has developed a new Gladiator GarageWorks line of modular appliances and storage units. The collection's rugged style and winter-proof construction was designed specifically for use in the garage, where Whirlpool is betting that men are ready for a home improvement.
"We conducted dozens of focus groups across the country," said Todd Starr, who heads up product development for the new brand. "We were struck with just how much men feel the garage is 'their space.' They have a great desire to overhaul it so that it's a room they can be proud of, a room that matches the style and quality of their homes, yards and vehicles."
Whirlpool confirmed the feedback with multiple quantitative research studies conducted across the country with thousands of participants. Among the results:
Homeowners understand that garages have more potential than what they are experiencing now;
There's a desire to transform their garage space into something not only more organized and efficient, but aesthetically pleasing as well;
There's a willingness to spend time and money in the garage.
"We are the first company to ask men the right questions about their garage," said brand director Tom Arent. "Men described the attributes of their ideal garage, we listened, we applied our global technology and design, and created original, comprehensive and compelling solutions for the garage."
In contrast with traditional storage solutions like wire shelves and stationary plastic cabinets, Gladiator GarageWorks features interchangeable boxes, drawers, major appliances and other "modules" that are finished in a tread-plate steel exterior and sit on heavy-duty locking casters. The not-so-white goods include a freezer/refrigerator combo dubbed The Freezerator; a compact refrigerator that's variously called the Garage Refrigerator or Beer Box; and the Garage Compactor.
The Freezerator, described by Whirlpool as the "ultimate second refrigerator," was designed in part to address the many cases of beer and soda that tend to stack up on garage floors, the company said. It also allows backyard warriors to serve and enjoy cold beverages without having to go inside the house to fetch them.
Like Whirlpool's forthcoming Kenmore SpaceStation for Sears, the refrigerator section can maintain stable temperatures despite the rigors of winters in the garage due to the location of the defrost heater. By placing it within the fresh food area, perishable items won't freeze and average temperature change within the freezer compartment can be limited to less than 10 degrees during the defrost cycle.
The unit, which measures 65 1/2 inches high, 24 inches deep and 26 inches wide, features a 6-cubic-foot freezer and 15-cubic-foot fresh food compartment.
The Freezerator is slated to launch during the second-quarter of 2003. Pricing hasn't been announced.
The Garage Refrigerator, like its larger sibling, also features a built-in heater to keep contents from freezing. The unit, which can store six cases of 12-ounce beverages, carries a suggested retail of $599.99, has special racks for storing cans or bottles, and is also available with a solid maple top to provide an added work surface.
The Garage Compactor, meanwhile, can "greatly reduce the amount of trash that typically piles up in the garage," Whirlpool says. The unit, which will retail for $549.99, scored high in focus groups, the company noted, especially with homeowners who have trash compactors in their kitchens and appreciate the convenience and cost savings of smaller loads. For homes without compactors in their kitchens, Whirlpool notes, the garage is the next logical place to put it, "since lots of trash ends up there anyway."
The collection is expected to debut this quarter at Lowe's.
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