Over 54 percent of the U.S. vacuum cleaner business in 1991 was handled through just 10 retail chains. That Top Ten accounted for 53.45 percent of uprights, 59.55 percent of canisters and 44.85 percent of the stick vacuums sold during the period.
Making the Top Ten retailer list were the following chains: Sears, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Montgomery Ward, Service Merchandise, Target, Best Products, Cotter, Price Club, and Venture.
The remainder of the business was handled through distribution channels including door-to-door, appliance stores, mail order, discount drug chains and independent dealers, all of which combined for 27.5 percent of unit sales. The remaining 18.5 percent was left to department stores, mass merchants, catalog-showrooms and hardware stores which did not make the Top Ten.
According to the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association, sales of full-sized vacuums amounted to approximately 11.1 million units in 1991, down from 11.37 million units in 1989.
Despite the decrease, consumers should spend $2.2 billion on full-sized vacuums this year, up from $2.1 billion in 1989. A consumer propensity for higher priced units in mass merchant channels has driven the dollar figure upward, according to industry sources.
These figures include upright, canister and stick vacuums. Not included are handhelds, wet/dry vacuums or deep-cleaning carpet machines, each a significant market in its own right.
While the Top Ten has more than 54 percent of the volume, it only has 40.25 percent of the dollars. Other channels, such as independent vacuum cleaner dealers, door-to-door, mail-order and appliance stores accounted for approximately 44 percent.
Target rounds out “the big three” mass merchants and is quietly grabbing a larger share of the unit sales, increasing its share from 2.5 to just over 3 percent. Together, these three mass merchants account for almost 20 percent of the vacuum cleaner unit market and almost 80 percent of sales in the mass merchant channel.
Regional mass merchants are also enjoying success, among them Bradlees and Caldor. Venture, previously cited in the Top Ten, and the the only regional mass merchant to make the list, is actually outperforming other mass merchants in per store volume. The next closest mass merchant is Target.
Targer does only 32.6 percent of Venture’s volume on a per store basis. Other distribution channels on the move include the warehouse clubs and catalog-showrooms.
Service Merchandise experienced sales growth that was credited by most industry sources to its broad assortment. Best Products has also increased its floor care business, despite cutting back on its total number of retail outlets.
Together, these two retailers account for 65 percent of sales in the catalog-showroom channel.
Membership or warehouse clubs are also grabbing a larger slice of the retail
pie, although only one chain–Price Club–made HFD’s Top Ten. In 1988, the channel accounted for 5 percent of the market.
Price Club accounts for almost 2 percent of the full-sized vacuum market with just 60 outlets, making Price Club the largest retailer in per-store volume.
As the chain adds retail outlets, its share of the overall market is sure to grow. The same is true of other membership clubs, like Sam’s Club, and Costco.
Department stores as a distribution channel are off significantly, dropping from a 16 percent share in 1988 to only 11 percent this year. Only one department store–Montgomery Ward–made the Top Ten, but that chain is on the move.
Montgomery Ward’s decision to move vacuum cleaners into its Electric Avenue department is paying off in spades, vendors say. While the retailer was in the No. 5 position, it has moved to No. 4.
While department stores have fallen on tough times, they still represent an important distribution channel. Several chains are just below the Top Ten, including Macy’s, May Co., and Federated Allied.
Hardware Stores are another channel that has taken a hit, off from 5 percent in 1988 to only 3 percent today. The two major floor care retailers in this channel, however, have kept their sales on an even keel.