EDITOR’S COMMENT: Rage against the machine

11 Jul, 14

Has the appliance industry ‘transfer window’ ended with Whirlpool Group’s acquisition of Indesit?

Following company co-operations, such as Panasonic buying a share of Gorenje and purchases after administration, such as Hoover Candy snapping up Baumatic; it’s long been suspected the appliance industry would see further consolidation. And the latest in the acquisition line-up is Whirlpool Corporation which has just purchased Indesit, to help strengthen its sales in Europe. It begs the question have we reached the end of the ‘transfer window’ or can we expect even more purchases in the future? And with fewer groups operating in the appliance industry, does it then signify a potential reduction in the number of brands? But here is the real eyebrow raising question, if an increasing amount of appliance brands are all made on the same platforms, by the same group, do we really need them all?

Of course I’m being purposely contentious but the appliance industry has never strayed far from controversy – at least not in the past couple of years. The latest furore has been the findings of the Marketwatch campaign by the EU Commission investigating energy efficiency labelling which found one in four ovens had incorrect information. It was claimed the ‘improved’ energy efficiency would give them a competitive advantage. Slapped wrists all round and now put right.

But the drama that continues to unfold, although not across the board, is the impact of discounted appliances sold on the internet, undercutting showroom sales. Appliance manufacturers seem to happily list internet partners, alongside retail showrooms, as being significant to their sales. And their advice? Go multi-channel!  But for kitchen showroom unwilling or perhaps reluctant to tread the e-commerce path, arguably their defence is to select a brand perhaps not so available online.

And here’s where we’ve come full circle. That is where brands can play their part. They differentiate a product offer for retailers and they can differentiate sales channels for manufacturers. Consumers also align with brands and their values. So perhaps, regardless of an ever-decreasing number of appliance groups, the same amount of brand names will remain. I must point out, I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. But with fewer manufacturers operating a multitude of brands, the industry needs to take care that they don’t become different names for homogenised products. We must all remember what makes this industry great is variety.