Whirlpool formally introduce its new front loading Duet washer and companion dryer to independent dealers during the recent spate of buying group shows.
The units, built in Germany by Whirlpool's European division, represent the majap maker's first front-load response to Maytag's successful Neptune horizontal axis washer, which was introduced more than four years ago.
Duet was first shown to the trade in off-site, sneak-peek sessions during the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in April. A Sears-specific version, dubbed Kenmore Elite HE3t, began flooring last month.
The washer, offered to dealers in a $999 base model and more feature-laden $1,299 version, attains spin speeds of 1,100 rpm and uses a miserly 15.8 gallons of water per cycle — compared to 42 gallons for the typical top loader.
Other features include an optional pullout storage container/pedestal that doubles as the unit's base and raises the door to chest level.
The washer's matching 15-pound-capacity dryer carries a suggested retail of $799 and is available in gas and electric models. Duet will begin shipping by month's end. The rollout will start in the Northwest and continue to the Northeast, after which Whirlpool will backfill the remaining U.S. markets in a process that is expected to take several months.
Sears, which sells a modified version of the higher-priced model, is pleased with initial consumer reaction. "It's very well received and doing very well in terms of sales," a spokesman said. "It has a certain 'wow' factor."
Warren Mann, executive director of the MARTA buying cooperative, is also wowed by Duet's looks, but feels mislead by Whirlpool, which promised distribution parity. "It looks like a Mercedes, while everything else is like a Yugo," he said. "But we had been assured that it would break with all retailers simultaneously. When Sears got it first, it was a real source of frustration."