The 2016 IBS expo floor. | Courtesy of National Association of Home Builders.

GE Appliances’ two-week holiday shutdown will be followed by a period of frenzy as the company prepares for the year’s biggest trade show, at which it will, for the first time, also showcase products of its new corporate owner, China-based Qingdao Haier.

A GEA official told IL that Haier’s products will enable the U.S. division to offer a broader range of products and to make inroads into new appliance niches.

The combined International Builders’ Show and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, from Jan. 10 to 12, in Orlando, Fla., is expected to attract more than 60,000 visitors from 100 countries. At the builders show, more than 1,400 manufacturers and suppliers will show their latest products on about 550,000 square feet of convention space. Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning will give the opening keynote.

Beyond allowing manufacturers and suppliers to showcase their products, the events will include clinics — on building and installing cabinets, staircase details, mantels — and sessions on technology, including social media, virtual reality and drones.

GEA and Haier

A 2.7 cubic-foot Haier fridge being sold on Home Depot’s website.

For GEA, the show provides an opportunity to showcase the latest products and to persuade builders that they should equip their homes and apartments with appliances from GEA — and, for the first time, from its new corporate owner, Haier. China-based appliance maker Qingdao Haier this year acquired GE Appliances from General Electric for $5.6 billion.

Robert Rogers, GEA’s general manager for strategy and market development, said that Haier’s products, which tend to be more compact, would complement the U.S. division’s products and would allow the company to offer customers a broader range of appliances.

For example, Haier offers some smaller refrigerators, a product in which GEA has made few investments. Roger said builders have asked for some smaller products for a long time, in part because it would give them greater flexibility for smaller apartments or to respond better to customer preference. Builders and homeowners now also can combine the Haier and GEA brands in their primary or secondary kitchens.

Rogers said that GEA is getting contracts to install full-size GE kitchens with narrow refrigerators.

Customers even use the smaller products in recreational vehicles or on houseboats.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said.

While GEA will benefit from being able to offer a broader product range, Haier will be able to take advantage of the U.S. division’s customer base and distribution infrastructure.

Haier, especially, has lots of upside sales potential, as its market share in the U.S. was in the low single digits early this year, according to Euromonitor International.

A GEA spokeswoman, Kim Freeman, said the company would have two booths at the combined shows. At the kitchen show, GEA will display appliances from its luxury line Monogram, while at the builders’ show, the company will present Haier products along with its GE lines, including Profile and Cafe.

Freeman said that the company also will introduce new appliances, including two new laundry products.

Industry trends

Rogers also said that appliance industry has improved throughout the year and the contract (builders) sales channel is moving in the right direction.

The contract channel will end the year near 1.3 million structures (single-family, multi-family, hospitality) built, he said, which remain significantly below its prerecession peak of about 2 million, but also has recovered from its low point near 500,000.

Rogers said that a hint of a housing shortage remains, which means prices will rise and builders will step in to provide capacity.

In addition, he said, builders have added a lot of multifamily structures for renters. After the mortgage-related recession, mortgage rules tightened, and banks became more reluctant to issue loans, which made it more difficult for people to buy homes. And that, in turn, increased demand for rental units.

GE Appliances announced this year that it would continue to be the exclusive supplier of appliances for Texas homebuilder Perry Homes.

GE Appliances announced this year that it would continue to be the exclusive supplier for Perry Homes. | Photo courtesy of GE.

GEA’s other sales channel, retail, which focuses on selling appliances to consumers through big box stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, and appliance specialists, has been “OK,” Rogers said.

The industry remains highly competitive. Retailers are essentially offering promotions year-round — not just during holidays — with already low prices being lowered every few months, Rogers said.

Manufacturers have to innovate constantly to set themselves apart, he said.

“If you just stand still, you’re going to get run over,” Rogers said. “The investments we’ve made have helped us remain competitive and relevant.”

 

Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.