Sharp Planning To Broaden Line

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After testing several prototype concepts at trade shows for the past year, executives at Sharp Electronics are closer to deciding whether to extend the company's appliance line beyond microwave ovens, room air conditioners and floor care, said John Kelly, sales and marketing VP of Sharp's appliance division.

"We'll be introducing rice cookers in the next few months, and we're studying other categories," specifically but not exclusively refrigerators and laundry appliances, Kelly told TWICE. Sharp's parent in Japan markets both refrigeration and laundry; its U.S. operation has been testing retail reaction to prototype designs in both categories, at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show and other venues.

"Our plan would be to come in with higher-end, niche products, not to go after the commodity market," Kelly noted. Additional appliances could be introduced as early as next year's K/BIS.

Sharp's factory in Mexico could be the production facility for additional appliances, Kelly indicated. The company currently does about half its microwave oven production at its Memphis, Tenn., plant. -- Cathy Ciccolella

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