CHICAGO — The impact of the major appliance industry’s four-year-long malaise was evident at last month’s 47th annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (K/ BIS), where majap makers filled less than half of one exhibit hall at Chicago’s Mc- Cormick Place.
Traffic appeared heavy within the diminished floor space, although the relatively light turnout by an estimated 30,000 attendees similarly reflected ongoing weakness in the housing market.
Only two of the top global appliance vendors were there — GE and Whirlpool’s Jenn-Air brand — although other major players, including LG and Sears’ Kenmore brand, held court offsite.
The dearth of majap giants provided a higher profile for smaller niche suppliers, although opinion was mixed on the merits of this year’s show. While most booths were buzzing with activity, some exhibitors bemoaned the quality of the attendees, i.e. decorators vs. dealers and distributors, and expressed interest in a proposed major appliance section at next year’s International CES.
Ironically, next year’s K/BIS returns to the home of the electronics show, the Las Vegas Convention Center, April 26- 28, 2011.
Meanwhile, industry executives expressed guarded optimism about a major appliance rebound. Doug Moore, president of Sears home appliances, was pleased with consumer response to the federally funded appliance rebate program, which has varied from “good to great” on a state-by-state basis.
Variables include the size of the state’s allocation, the amount of the actual rebates, and the ease with which consumers or retailers could process the paperwork, he told TWICE. Some markets, including New York, generated a Black Fridaylike furor, with customers lining up outside stores before opening, he said.
For Mike Flynn, sales VP at Avanti Products, business is up “dramatically” this year, suggesting that the worst of the recession may be over. Sales were down for the company in 2009, he said, but Avanti managed to maintain profits by cutting costs and “margining up.”
The following is a rundown of introductions by Avanti and other K/BIS exhibitors:
The specialty appliance maker showed a 15-inch-wide, built-in undercounter refrigerator that’s UL-approved for outdoor placement that ships this month; a 24-inch-wide dual-zone stainless- steel mobile beverage and wine cooler, available in mid-June; and an all-in-one “compact kitchen” replete with sink, cooktop, refrigerator and storage drawers.
The cooking company highlighted its Honeycomb electric cooktop at the show. The unit can be fitted into virtually any countertop material and in a number of layout options thanks to its customizable “honeycomb”-style heating elements. Each honeycomb is controlled by one centrally positioned element with sensor touch controls that allow programmable cooking times of up to 99 minutes, while the sleek surface allows for easy cleanup of spills and features pan detection and a child safety lock.
Liebherr Export AG:
The German manufacturer debuted the Energy Starrated CS 2060 and HC 2060 36-inch single-door fridges. Part of the company’s larger capacity product series, the high-performance products offer a dual refrigeration system with separate superefficient, variable speed compressors for the refrigerator and the freezer compartments. Other features include double freezer drawers on telescopic rails, LED light columns, ceiling lighting, vegetable and freezer drawer illumination, and an icemaker with advanced water filtering.
The premium commercial supplier displayed its Private Reserve wine cabinet, a signature piece from its residential series of high-performance undercounter beverage refrigerators. The company’s “balanced refrigeration” system keeps the desired temperature constant within +1 to -1 degree throughout the cabinet. The cabinet holds 53 wine bottles in state-of-the-art glide-out shelving.
The specialty oven manufacturer highlighted its 30-inch doublewall speed-cook oven. The upper cook cavity incorporates TurboChef ’s patented “airspeed” technology that can prepare food up to 15 times faster than a conventional oven, while the lower cavity serves as a traditional convection oven. The company’s signature design incorporates a premium stainless-steel chassis and polished-aluminum door handles, with a variety of colors available for the upper door. An analog clock and timer, precise dial-control knobs and a color LCD interface featuring the company’s cook-wheel and cook navigator functions enhance functionality, visibility and ease, the manufacturer said.