Waring builds on its blender: signature product a launch pad to higher end

Waring, the 60-year-old maker of small electric appliances, is refocusing on its flagship product, the blender. Over the years the company has broadened its product lineup, but it will now deemphasize its mass-merchant products and refocus on upscale products. President Thomas Kilby explained that, while Waring will not abandon nonblender products, those products will be positioned to complement blenders. Waring is trying to regain its heritage by focusing on the product that earned it a place in consumers’ hearts: the blender.

“We have a venerable brand name that hasn’t been supported in recent times as probably it should have been,” said Thomas Kilby, president, “but it still has real value to high-end consumers.” The 60-year-old electrics vendor, with estimated sales of $40 million, is reassessing its direction. Having broadened assortments to cover a range of prices and channels of distribution, Waring is returning to its high-end roots. Kilby said the company is not abandoning other kitchen appliances, but those categories will complement Waring’s blenders.

And the blenders and other kitchen appliances are being refined to concentrate on the high end. But to make this move, the blender must be “the flagship or the heritage product,” he said.

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Although Waring plans to streamline its assortment, Kilby could not comment on which products would be discontinued. He did say the company is “trying to build as much synergy into the products we’re focusing on. “For example, to complement the professional-style blender, Waring will feature such upscale products as its juicer, drink mixer, food processor and ice cream maker. Waring in recent years has emphasized business with mass merchants, but Kilby said mass merchant prices were not yielding very high margins.

Although the company plans to retain a small presence at the mass level with selected products, its new path leads to increased distribution in the higher-end market. Kilby declined to elaborate on which products will stay in mass outlets and which will be cut. By targeting upscale consumers, Waring wants to highlight higher-margin products that will appeal to “more focused, more selective, strong retail partners,” Kilby said.

Stephen Barnett, president of The Kitchen Works Inc., which carries Waring products, said he thinks Waring’s philosophy is right on. “We don’t carry low-end appliances,” he said. “We tend to get higher-income customers, who are willing to spend more for quality products.” Barnett said Waring bar blenders and kitchen blenders have been solid-selling products with no returns. There are no bells and whistles to a Waring blender, he explained, just good performance.

The addition of color this year to the Waring blender line has also made for an attractive statement, Barnett said, adding that although black accounts for roughly 80 percent of Waring blender sales, the color assortment has motivated some consumers. Step number one in the Waring quest is to “wake up and take a dose of reality and realize that our asset base really needs to be focused toward end users,” Kilby said, adding that the company is focusing on features that consumers want and then tailoring marketing programs to individual specialty and department stores.

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The firm created a profile of the target Waring consumer: an upscale consumer who enjoys spending money on the home, entertaining at home, and is health-conscious.Kilby explained these target Waring consumers have a taste for luxurious and au courant products. “They have disposable income and like spending it on things that are important to their home and their lifestyles,” Kilby said.

The model Waring consumer may be a serious cook, one who enjoys entertaining. Kilby noted that while Waring may not be right for everyone, there is definitely a trend, evidenced in the media, to more sophisticated cooking at home.Amateur and professional cooks are using more sophisticated means of preparation.

Another consumer in Waring’s model is one who is concerned with nutrition and health. These potential customers, Kilby explained, “want to make sure they’re using tools that are high quality so they can make things better, faster, easier or all of the above.”A key part of Waring’s plan, Kilby said, is to find out where Waring’s dream consumers shop–“then be there when they do, with selected products, high quality and high value. I think we’re in a position where we should use our heritage, use the venerable brand value that we have and be very focused with selected products, to selected channels, to people who have those needs,” Kilby said.

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“I think that if we could find that person, with one or more of those needs,” he continued, “we could fulfill them where our kinds of products are concerned. We suspect that will imply more selective, and in some cases, new channels of distribution.”To date, Kilby said, the firm has strong placement in the well-known, upscale specialty retailer Williams-Sonoma, and hopes to reach that consumer.David Bean, vice president for consumer sales and marketing, said the company is calling the thrust of its marketing strategy, “fit, feel and finish.”

To convey a sense of value, the product must fit into the ideal channels of distribution. But it also must seem to the consumer a premium-grade product. This means using high-quality materials such as glass, metal and high-grade plastics.The finish, or style, is crucial. Units must appear smooth and sleek to appeal to the high-end consumer. Classical, retro or nostalgic looks are important. And of course, color must be an option.

Waring is a member of the Chili Red Alliance, launched at this year’s Gourmet Products Show. The cross-merchandising effort links products in chili pepper-red, from such companies as Chantal Cookware and Filter Cold, a water filtration manufacturer. Kilby said the alliance is a good example of the company’s drive to boost point-of-purchase efforts.The third prong of Bean’s strategy–“finish”–is an attempt to make products easy to use and understand. To this end, Waring plans to sponsor instore product demonstrations, a new strategy for the company.

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