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One-On-One With Fisher & Paykel’s Kevin Dexter

Expanding F&P's place in an evolving majap market.

Founded in 1934, Fisher & Paykel (F&P) has long dominated its native New Zealand and neighboring Australian appliance markets with innovative design concepts like its DishDrawer drawer-style dishwashers. But its South Pacific base eventually broadened, and today F&P and its high-performance DCS cooking unit can be found in more than 50 countries, with U.S. placements ranging from local independents to Lowe’s.

Things changed again in 2012 after China’s Qingdao Haier completed its purchase of F&P for $766 million. Haier positioned the business as its premium global kitchen and laundry brand, while F&P also continued tapping into the luxury appliance tier, most recently with a new range of super-premium kitchen products.

See: Haier, F&P Extend Majap Partnership

Heading Fisher & Paykel’s U.S. and Canadian business is North America president and appliance industry veteran Kevin Dexter. Dexter was COO of Haier America, heading R&D, manufacturing, logistics, IT, operations and service, until the company was folded into GE Appliances following GE’s 2016 acquisition by Haier.

Prior to that, the Electrolux alum brought focus to Samsung’s push into the U.S. majap market as senior VP of home appliance sales and marketing, where he led the introduction of Samsung’s premium Chef Collection series and was an early advocate of smart appliances.

Now, as a crowded super-premium appliance tier continues to heat up, TWICE recently put some questions to Dexter about the U.S. luxury market and Fisher & Paykel’s place in it.

How do you define the luxury appliance category?

Globally, Fisher & Paykel defines premium as the top 15 percent in value of the total appliance market and luxury as the top 3 to 5 percent in value. Categories and sub-categories are defined differently based on typology and application of the product; for example, freestanding refrigeration is predominately mass market, therefore the percentage that is premium is low. Conversely, built-in refrigeration is predominately premium, therefore the percentage is much higher.

Finally, we bounce feature sets and price position against market trends to paint a complete view of the premium appliance market.

Is the luxury category more insulated from downturns in the economy and housing market than mass market white-goods?

Generally yes — premium consumers are always prepared to make longer-term investments in their homes and, by proxy, their appliances. Downturns simply make the market more aware of the return on investment. For example, unnecessary features that provide no perceived value become a distraction in the purchase journey. Features that make customers’ lives easier and their time in the kitchen more enjoyable and efficient become more valued.

Is the luxury category feeling any pressure from mass premium appliances, as that tier continues to incorporate more ultra-premium features?

Not especially. Feature sets are one part of the equation for designing and marketing premium brands; quality, attention to detail in touchpoints during the purchase journey, as well as post-purchase support, brand awareness and perception, are additional critical elements among others that define the premium market.

Related: Luxe Appliance Market In Flux

What impact will import tariffs and global trade wars have on the luxury market, if any?

We will continue to stay connected to developing trends that will affect the premium and luxury market, but we see these items as holistic industry challenges rather than particular to any segment.

Is the luxury category getting overcrowded? What other challenges does it face?

The luxury category has historically been very competitive. While we have seen some new entrants to the space, what we really see is the trend of item and category suppliers transforming into full-line suppliers — not unlike what happened in mass 25 to 30 years ago, where historic American brands that were most associated with expertise in specific categories evolved into full-line suppliers via acquisition and expansion.

Has F&P always considered itself a luxury brand? What distinguishes it in the marketplace? In our home market in New Zealand, we have participated in all segments of the market, including premium. In markets outside of New Zealand, we have been known for our introduction of innovative products like high-efficiency top-load laundry, DishDrawers and CoolDrawers.

As Haier Group’s global premium brand, we are now solidifying ourselves in the premium and luxury space via investments in product, brand and capability, highlighting the uniqueness of our being “Designed in New Zealand.”

How is F&P distributed? Direct? Through distributors?

By authorized retailers and builder distributors throughout the United States and Canada.

What are your sales channels?

We are distributed and sold through traditional design, retail and builder channels in North America. In addition, we have a growing network of Experience centers globally [the North American locations are in New York, Costa Mesa and Toronto], where during the consideration, specification, and purchase journey, all audiences can be completely immersed in our brand and products.

How is Fisher & Paykel leveraging its shared corporate parentage with GE/Monogram?

Our Haier group corporate parentage allows us to identify opportunities and leverage which our global scale provides, while at the same time maintaining distinct roles that each of our brands plays in the each of our marketplaces.

What are the latest design and feature-set trends within the luxury category? Are smart/connected capabilities important to the luxury appliance consumer?

A continuing trend that we stay focused on are feature sets that add value to consumers lives, whether that is the technology employed, ease of use of the product, or the ability to style it exactly the way that consumers want.

The concept of a connected appliance is not new. The advancement and reduced cost of technologies are making possible the introduction of premium appliance features that add real value in day-to-day kitchen activities. It’s the mind shift of incorporating technological features into products because they promote a better lifestyle, vs. adding features ‘just because we can.’