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Majap Makers Set Tone For 2005 At IBS

Major appliance vendors rang in the New Year last week at the International Builders’ Show (IBS), the calendar’s first major white-goods exhibition of the season.

While manufacturers unveiled a plethora of product — largely refinements of existing high-end lines — the introductions came amid the bigger news of industry-wide price hikes that went into effect this month. The long-anticipated increases, which average about 15 percent, are the first in many years for the white-goods business, and were taken to compensate for the soaring costs of energy, stainless steel and other raw materials.

The big question, according to Bob Lawrence, executive director of the $4 billion Brand Source buying group, is whether retailers — specifically the big-box and home improvement chains — will pass along the increases once they’ve worked through their 2004 inventory. “You can buy a fully-featured refrigerator today for the same amount you paid for a no-frills model 10 years ago,” he said. “If you’re going to do it [raise retail prices], now’s the time.”

Sears, which had a major presence at IBS with its expansive new palette of fashion color finishes, said it raised white goods prices last week.

Manufacturers are confident that consumers will be willing to ante up for better majaps featuring new innovations and features. Among exhibitors making that bet last week at the Orange County Convention Center, here, was GE, which introduced a new super-capacity front-load washer and dryer pair. Their 3.7-cubic-foot stainless washer basket and the 7.0-cubic-foot dryer drum are big enough to handle 22 towels, the company said, while matched wash and dry times for similar fabrics help prevent laundry room bottlenecks.

Available in September, the GE front-load washer and dryer will be offered in white and a new color option, granite gray, with an estimated retail price range of $799 to $849 for the washer, and $599 to $649 for the dryer.

In refrigeration, GE showed a bottom-mount French door Profile model that will be available in May in stainless, white and black, with an estimated retail price ranging from $1499 to $1999. Upgrades will be available in June in stainless, white, bisque and black, with an estimated retail price ranging from $1,279 to $2,749.

GE also introduced its first Profile 48-inch built-in side-by-side, available next month in stainless steel, white and black, with an estimated retail price range of $5,399 to $6,849.

Other GE intros included freestanding Profile gas ranges with a lower oven or a versatile fifth center oval burner, and a new walk-in wine vault under the luxury Monogram moniker.

Also front and center in Orlando was BSH Home Appliances, makers of Bosch, Siemens and Gaggenau branded white goods. Shown under the Bosch banner was the 9-cycle Integra Vision dishwasher which, at 44 decibels, was touted as “the quietest dishwasher now manufactured in the United States.” In fact, 16 Bosch units produce a sound output level equal to just one traditional dishwasher, the company says.

Other features include a PartyWash program that cleans up to six place settings in about 30 minutes without sacrificing the performance of a regular program. The unit began shipping late last year as a stainless steel or fully integrated model with a suggested retail of $1,699.

Meanwhile, sister brand Gaggenau introduced an all-new Vario series of 15W-inch, high-powered gourmet modular cooktops featuring stainless or aluminum surfaces and temperature-controlled dual cooking zones.

TWICE’s IBS coverage will continue in next week’s issue (Jan. 24).