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Whirlpool, Electrolux No-Shows At K/BIS

Las Vegas – The 2007 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), held earlier this month at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was nearly as notable for who wasn’t there as it was for the dazzling new products that were.

Absent from the majap industry’s foremost trade event were the world’s two largest appliance manufacturers, Whirlpool and Electrolux.

The latter, while maintaining an off-site presence, said the timing of the show was at odds with its product introduction calendar. According to a spokesperson, Electrolux had passed on K/BIS in the past, and this year’s no-show was not indicative of any change in exhibition strategy.

And while several Whirlpool products appeared on the show floor within other exhibitors’ vignettes, the manufacturer said it eschewed a booth of its own this year in favor of “regional and market-specific activities,” a spokesperson explained. The decision doesn’t reflect a change in commitment toward K/BIS, she noted, although Whirlpool hasn’t yet determined if it will return in 2008.

Although No. 3 majap maker GE did make the show, division head Jim Campbell didn’t (he was attending a different trade show for another category, lightbulbs, he also manages). GE also had a smaller booth compared to past shows, and its presentation was largely limited to its premium Monogram line.

Attendees interpreted the diminished presence of the Big Three as a cost-savings measure and, in the case of Whirlpool, a timeout until its integration issues with Maytag are settled. Observers also wondered if the moves would reduce future majap attendance at K/BIS, and its standing as the CES of white goods.

Regardless of how it shakes out, this year’s power vacuum gave center stage to secondary and tertiary players. Many reported larger crowds in the absence of Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Electrolux, Frigidaire or GE Profile, and vendors rewarded their visitors with glossy arrays of fashion-colored laundry and cooking products that belied the term “white goods.”

(Check out some scenes from the show in the TWICE Photo Gallery.)