The cost of upright and handheld vacuums continues to rise

Just over four years ago, Dyson shattered the $300 price barrier in upright vacuums, sparking a trend in the floor care world. This upward movement looks to have continued into this year, as average price points for upright vacuums for the 12-month period ended July 31 increased about 9 percent to $137.30 from $125.98 for the prior-year period, according to The NPD Group. Handheld vacuums saw a 12.4 percent increase in that same period to about $32.67 from $29.07, according to NPD.

Rob Newcombe, vice president of marketing at Electrolux Home Care Products North America, said floor care sales growth is split between the high-end and opening-price levels. “We still see growth at the high and low end,” he said. “On retailers’ floors, we are seeing more higher price points.”

Electrolux, which utilizes a two-brand strategy with its higher-end Electrolux brand and its entry- to mid-level Eureka line, this year bumped up Eureka pricing with its new $169 Eureka Capture Plus upright. The company was able to raise the Eureka pricing bar, thanks to features such as an HEPA filter, a telescopic duster and “roller-blade” wheels, Newcombe said.

The higher-priced vacuum segment has also grown of late, due to fledgling vacuum companies entering the U.S. market at the high end. One such company was Halo, which this year introduced its $399 Halo UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum. Halo differentiated its upright from the competition with an ultraviolet light on the bottom of the unit that kills dust mites, viruses, bacteria, flea eggs and mold found in carpet fibers. Halo currently sells its vacuum via online retailers, and has plans to break into select big-box home specialty retailers later this month, said Jeff Collins, vice president of sales and marketing at Halo.

Canister Vacuum 1

German floor care maker Robert Thomas LP this year took its first steps into the U.S. market with its $1,200 Rotho Twin tt multisurface wet/dry canister vacuum. This ultra-high-end vacuum features an electro-brush designed for dirt, dust and pet hair pickup and a deep cleaning spray extraction “Aqua-Filter” system.

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The Rotho’s high price tag means high-end distribution. “We are setting up a distribution network with specialized vacuum dealers, not going through channels like Target or Best Buy, because we need salesmen to sell a $1,200 product,” said Thomas Slusarek, product marketing manager at Robert Thomas. He is not worried about sticker shock, as he explained that the high-end vac dealer customer is accustomed to this price echelon. “When the consumer walks into a store with high-end vacuums, he probably has the budget to make that purchase.” The company is currently selling the Rotho Twin tt via luxury home catalogs, online and select high-end vacuum dealers, he said. Robert Thomas’ ultimate goal is to distribute the line at about 500 specialty vacuum dealers nationwide.

Dyson impacted upright price points when it brought its bagless cyclonic unit to the United States, so why not do the same with handhelds? Dyson late last year launched its first hand vacuum, the $149 Root 6, amid a sea of sub-$30 commodity handhelds.

Dyson’s hand vacuum launch, while the most dramatic in terms of pricing, was not the first to have a pricing impact on this compact segment. Dirt Devil last year teamed with designer Karim Rashid to launch the $39.99 Kone hand vacuum. In the case of the Kone, which looks more like a minimalistic cone sculpture than a vacuum, consumers are paying for the design. Dirt Devil this year took hand vacuums to yet another pricing level with its $52.99 Kurv, also a Karim Rashid-designed model. The Kurv also focuses on design with its rounded, vase-like artistic shape.

Canister Vacuum 2

“We have seen an uptickin pricingin handhelds,” said Chris Gurreri, president of TTI Floor Care North America, which manufactures the Dirt Devil and Hoover lines. “Our designer series has pushed up cordless pricing.” He added that dollar growth last year exceeded unit growth in the category.

Gurreri argued that while hand vac pricing has escalated, uprights of late have suffered a pricing decline, which he attributed to a high level of competition and retail pricing pressure.