Volume 44 Number 10
Creative Marketing: Hardware Show Gets Hit with an Innovation Drought
Photographs and graphics that illustrate this article are visible in the printed version of the article only. To receive a copy, please make a request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the article title, author(s) name(s), the issue, your name, company name (if any) and your fax number in the email.
Not only was the 2002 edition of the National Hardware Show a little short on attendance, it also suffered from a drought of ideas in the water filtration sector. In short, innovations were in short supply. New products were far and few between and it was mostly cosmetic improvements that ruled the day at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
Prominent “no shows” in retail water improvement included GE Smart Water, Watts/Premier Water Systems, American Water Services, Envirogard Products Ltd. (Rainfresh) and PUR (see Table 1). Brita has skipped the Hardware Show for several years and, this year, WaterPik chose to schedule “by appointment only” visits with key buyers in a private room above the exhibit floor.
In general, the show featured some hot topics and merchandising themes -- home security, home environment, “cocooning,” ways to simplify product selection at point of sale, post-9/11 concerns, and do-it-yourself (DIY) stores “feminizing” their formats.
At the Hardware Show, Waste King added a third component -- a separate electric inline water chiller. Attached to the same filter cartridge(s) as the separate water heater, the 18.5-inch tall unit uses patented Ice Probe thermoelectric cooling technology. The Cool Water chiller delivers over 50 cups of cold water (under 40°F) per day, according to Waste King’s George Baumann. Gooseneck faucets are available with hot-only or hot-and-cold functions in satin nickel and polished brass. (Twist handles are also available.) The filter’s cartridges are fitted with an easy-connect feature and the Quick&Hot tank spotlights an anti-liming deflection shield. Retail pricing wasn’t available at press time.
New look makes debut
Bob Hague, president of WaterBoss, spoke of the unit’s new sculptured cabinet design, introduced in Chicago, which “brings contemporary appliance styling” to the category.
The new “soft edge” aesthetics, however, aren’t the end of improvements in the new generation of WaterBoss, according to Hague. “A concealed sliding port replaces the old salt lid and the new user-friendly, redesigned electronics include a single-set controller, an automatic safety shut-off, and a visible water meter light that flashes when water is being used,” said Hague. All functional components are manufactured by Hague in its Groveport, Ohio, facility. Model 550 is designed for “city water” and retails for under $400. Model 700, retailing for around $436, is a 0.7 cubic foot (cu. ft.) resin capacity softener with a built-in self-cleaning filter. Model 800, with a $496 SRP, has a 0.9 cu. ft. resin tank. WaterBoss mixes a 0.5 cu. ft. of KDF with resin for iron and H2S. The new WaterBoss softener line features new full-color packaging and ships with a videocassette for do-it-yourselfers. “The first of our newly designed WaterBoss softeners shipped the week before the Hardware Show,” said Hague.
Star Water Systems showed its new EasySoft water softeners with electronic hardness sensor and audible salt refill alarm, priced between $999 and $1,399 SRP. The company’s undercounter reverse osmosis (RO) system sells for $299 SRP.
Few new products
Culligan again displayed its undersink SY-2300 and SY-2650 MTBE filtration systems, sold by its franchised dealers as well as at retail outlets. Both carbon block filtration systems reduce MTBE and a wide range of other contaminants including cysts, lead, certain pesticides, herbicides and other organic chemicals, asbestos, mercury and sediment. Cartridges are rated at 500 gallons. The SY-2300 retails for about $119, and the SY-2650 with electronic filter monitor sells for about $160 at retail. One thing missing -- USFilter brand water softeners and RO drinking water systems, currently sold through Costco and Ace Hardware’s central warehouse. The company suggested a new brand might be developed for these categories at retail, so as to protect the interests of its franchised Culligan dealers.
Halfmann revealed plans to conduct both trade and consumer preference studies toward the creation of new Culligan consumer product packaging in 2003. Dave Shanahan, consumer product sales manager, suggested Culligan will soon offer consumers water test kits “to help them test water quickly and inexpensively before choosing a filter.”
Submerged by pump brand
Like last year, Omnifilter featured its 750-gallon capacity CBF-20 undersink point-of-use (POU) system, rated for MTBE as well as lead, cysts and other contaminants. A company official promised new packaging for Omnifilter products in the coming year, one that will help “simplify product selection.” Sta-Rite remains a private-label supplier of POU/POE (point-of-entry) filters to GE with products sold through Home Depot stores. Simer, in addition to specialty pumps, has a line of pressure tanks available through plumbing wholesalers.
Showertek Inc. showed inline show-er filters under both Showertek and Sunbeam brands, featuring KDF replicable cylindrical cartridges rated for 10,000 gallons. Company president Tom Chris-tianson vowed not to try to compete with Sprite’s expanding finish options and said, “People want an inline shower filter that will integrate smoothly with their own choice of designer shower-heads.”
UV technology on display
Carafes and coolers
Royal Sovereign International showed floor-mount water coolers with suggested retail prices from $139 to $159 for cold water and a unit that contains a small refrigerator. A hot/cold/room temperature cooler will sell between $179-199, said Mike Villaplana, who believes that “more and more food stores will stock three and five gallon bottles of water selling from $2.50 to $5.50 in the years to come, targeting consumers with home water coolers.”
Filtered coolers with bottles
About the author
Table 1. The Hardware Show by the numbers
EXTRA: More Players, Magnets & Giveaways
Bur-Cam Pumps U.S.A., a Quebec, Canada, pump manufacturer making its Hardware Show debut, carried the event’s only cabinet style RO system (50 gallons per day, gpd) with cold and room temperature taps. It also showed undercounter carbon filtration and 50-gpd RO systems.
Campbell Manufacturing showed its extensive line of filter housings and fittings as well as an undercounter RO system with UV disinfection. The company sells through hardware and plumbing wholesalers as well as water treatment dealers. Pro-Lab showed its Water Quality Test Kit that retails for $9.95 at Home Depot and includes tests for H2S, iron and nitrates/nitrites. Cargill Salt showed its Diamond Crystal products including potassium chloride pellets.
Field Controls LLC showed its ClearWave electronic unit said to dissolve scale as it flows downstream. The plug-in unit attaches to cold water pipe and retails between $159 and $199 in stores and catalogs. P3 International showed two electromagnetic water conditioners to reduce lime scale buildup in pipes and water heaters. Its $29 SRP Chemical Free Water Conditioner slides over the pipe and requires no batteries or electricity. P3’s Mineral Manager is a plug-in conditioner that retails for around $70.
Every August, the Hardware Show includes new, water-related giveaways for creative water treatment dealers. This year was no exception. Sprite’s Mediterranean Blue bath salts will make a welcome “door opener” for dealers. Another option will be Flood Alarm from Rialco Inc. ($5.65 wholesale) -- a new electronic warning alarm that alerts consumers to water problems in the home. H2O Watch introduced its Water Watch ($7 wholesale), a screw-on inline water meter that shows gallons or liters of fluids used while you water the yard, apply spray-on fertilizers or shower. Energy Technology Laboratories showed its imaginative flow restrictor showerhead called the Oxygenics SkinCare Shower, a lifetime showerhead said to enrich the shower water with oxygen to promote healthier skin. P3 International showed the Sol-Mate Floating Light -- a “perfect way to add illumination of your water garden, pool or birdbath!”