On the heels of a record year for floor care shipments -- manufacturers' sales to dealers of full-size vacuum cleaners jumped 10.4% last year, topping 18 million units, according to the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association -- vac suppliers have readied a new arsenal of higher-tech, higher-performance products to tempt consumers in the months ahead.
Technological developments that have produced more-efficient, lighter-weight floor care products have shortened replacement cycles while boosting the average selling price. And while uprights, currently holding a penetration level of more than 90%, are getting much of the market's attention, vac manufacturers are looking to improvements in canister design and operation to put more life in that market segment this year as well.
At both the recent Housewares Show and the upcoming Gourmet Products Show, feature trends include improved cleaning ability via wider cleaning heads and dirt indicator lights, as well as increased use of bagless technology and HEPA-type filtration.
Vac manufacturers are also working to make their products easier to maneuver -- using more compact designs and enhanced wand/attachment flexibility -- as well as easier on the eyes through a new palette of bright color options.
Vac suppliers have a new crop of products going into distribution, with others due in retail stores later on this year. Among the newest entries in the lucrative floor care sweepstakes are:
- Bissell's new Power Steamer ProHeat Plus upright deep cleaner, with an onboard heater that mixes hot tap water with a cleaning fluid, then heats the resulting solution. Bissell also has a new ProLite upright that comes with a matching ProPartner canister vac.
- Eureka's latest vac entries include the SmartVac Self-Propelled, a bagless cyclonic upright with Dirt Alert infrared dirt sensor and true HEPA filtration.
- Fantom recently introduced its Fury Limited Edition vac, with a new Squeeze and Go handle that incorporates a removable wand designed to reach hard-to-clean places.
- Hoover has expanded its line of deep cleaners with the new SteamVac Widepath, featuring a wider, 14-inch cleaning nozzle and six rotating brushes. During the second quarter of this year, Hoover also plans to introduce bagless uprights to fill a gap in its product line.
- LG Electronics, which began in floor care in this country distributing its products exclusively through vac specialty shops, now plans to target the mass market with a new line of Goldstar cyclonic models, also due in the second quarter.
- Panasonic recently introduced a whole new vac line, highlighting a beltless direct-drive system and HEPA filtration, along with an overload protector to stop the motor in case of obstruction.
- Royal Appliances is focusing on its Dirt Devil Easy Steamer upright extractor, its first entry in that category. The company plans new Power Pak and Can Vac models later in 2000.
- Samsung has a new line of sticks, uprights and canister vacs. The company also plans to introduce a new model said to kill dust mites, now on sale in Europe and Asia, into the U.S. market by year-end.
- Sanyo, also looking to broaden its retail distribution, is highlighting its DirtHunter bagless uprights and its Power Pivot lightweight canister.
- Sharp's latest vac entries include a canister with vertically pivoting Power Pivot nozzle. The company is also testing retail reaction to a number of new colors for its floor care line.