The appliance industry spent most of 2007 dealing with the ripples from the troubled housing market and the highly-publicized sub-prime lending crisis, though data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) showed that things might have begun to stabilize in the fall. For example, in October the group found that total unit shipments of white goods slipped 1.6 percent, compared with a nearly 6 percent decline for the first nine months of the year.
Despite the generally tepid atmosphere throughout the year, the category did see some significant changes, including the addition of more majap products to the sales floors of some major retailers. There were also a number of examples of of technological innovation and advancements within the category. A selection of the year's highlights follow:
Kmart Bows More Majaps: Kmart expanded its majap footprint as parent company Sears Holdings experimented with various formats to leverage the brands, assortments and real estate of its two national chains. Of Kmart's 1,394 locations, approximately 183 were said to carry major appliances in stand-alone departments adjacent to consumer electronics. Also, a few of those stores also added branded Sears shops inside, featuring majaps, CE and other hard lines.
IBS Provides Stage For Innovation: The National Association of Home Builders hosted its 2007 International Builders' Show (IBS) in Orlando, Fla. at the Orange County Convention Center Feb. 7-10. The show featured keynote speeches from veteran news broadcaster Ted Koppel and Bruce Siegel, marketing director for Ritz Carlton.
Majaps had a considerable presence at IBS, with product showcases from many major manufacturers and brands including Bosch, Thermador, Whirlpool, Maytag and GE Consumer and Industrial.
Haier Adds Premium Majap Platforms: Haier America moved beyond its base of utilitarian white goods in an effort to tap into robust market demand for fully featured, premium major appliances.
Its new introductions included a side-by-side refrigerator with a bottom-mount compartment that can be converted from a freezer to a refrigerator, a counter-depth French-door fridge with a bottom-mount compartment that's segmented into two separate drawers, a new Genesis series washer and more.
Maytag Casts New 'Ol' Lonely': The Maytag Repairman was recast this month following a nationwide search for the latest man fit to wear the blue uniform. Clay Jackson of Richmond,Va. was chosen to represent the new face of the brand, which was acquired by Whirlpool last year.
Best Buy Brings Back Maytag: Whirlpool placed a full line of Maytag-branded appliances in all U.S. Best Buy stores this month, marking the first time that the brand's appliances were sold by the retailer in more than two years.
K/BIS Exhibitors Focus on Luxury: Exhibitors at The Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), held this month at the Las Vegas Convention Center, triangulated on the premium portion of the market — the most active sector of an otherwise moribund business.
Quite a few vendors were present to show their luxury wares, but in a way the show was nearly as notable for who wasn't there as it was for the products that were. Absent from the majap industry's foremost trade event were the world's two largest appliance manufacturers, Whirlpool and Electrolux.
Whirlpool's Swift Resigns: Whirlpool president David Swift resigned after running the company's North American operations for nearly six years. He was succeeded by the man he originally replaced, Michael Todman, who had since headed Whirlpool's Eurpean and global businesses.
Swift's departure followed a trying period for the world's largest majap maker, as the daunting integration of its Maytag acquisition, higher raw materials costs, and a dramatic downturn in the U.S. white-goods market impacted company earnings.
Brand Source Bows Siemens Cooking Line: Brand Source launched a new line of Siemens built-in cooking appliances nationwide this month.
The partnership encompasses Siemens' avant-Garde-branded iSlide convection wall ovens and avant-Garde touchSlide electric cooktops.
Frigidaire Ships New Filtration System: Frigidaire's new PureAir filtration system, developed to remove food odors from refrigerator compartments, began hitting retail floors within 10 select refrigerator models this month.
The system works continuously to keep the refrigerator and frozen food compartments smelling fresh without fan activation.
Bosch Bows New Evolution, Integra Dishwashers: Bosch began shipping its new lineup of Evolution and Integra dishwashers this month.
Both lines have a number of models available, divided into three classes: the 300, 500 and 800 Series. At the top of the lines are the Evolution SHE98 and Integra SHX98 models. According to the company, "Both models exceed the minimum federal energy standard by 147 percent" and "use approximately the same amount of energy as a dishwasher half its size."
Cowboy Maloney's Acquires Premium Majap Chain: Cowboy Maloney's Electric City of Jackson, Miss. acquired Riverwood Home Appliances, a two-store premium appliance chain with locations in Riverwood and Hattiesburg, Miss. this month.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the deal included such select assets as store locations, inventory and trade name. The transaction gave Cowboy Maloney access to Riverwood's luxury majap lines, including AGA, Gaggenau, Sub-Zero, Viking and Wolf, for which the company entered into new dealership arrangements with vendors and distributors.
Sears Teams With EPA: Sears became the first retailers in the country to join the U.S. Environmntal Protection Agency's voluntary Responsible Appliance Disposal partnership (RAD).
Haier Debuts '08 Appliance Line: Haier debuted its 2008 major appliance lineup. Highlights include its PRTS series top-mount refrigerator; a counter-depth, stainless-steel French door fridge that can retail for under $2,000 and is said to be an industry-first; a 37-bottle, six-shelf wine celler and a re-designed Genesis top load washer.
Majaps Deliver In J.D. Power Survey:J.D. Power and Associates, the market research firm, said consumers are largely happy with the performance, features, styling and price of their major appliances.
According to the results of its 2007 Major Home Appliances Study, only one in 10 consumers report some kind of problem with their majap during the first two years of ownership, and many of those problems can be resolved by following instructions in the owner's manual or on the manufacturer's Web site. Relatively few problems actually require a service visit, the report said.