Wal-Mart surpassed Sears in vacuum cleaner sales for the first time in 2d qtr 1995. Industry analysts were surprised that it took Wal-Mart so long to achieve this feat. Wal-Mart had 16.1% of the market share in US vacuum cleaner sales while Sears had 15.4%. Consumers are interested in the best price for a product and discount retailer Wal-Mart has it.
NORWALK, Conn. - Sears, the longtime share leader in vacuum cleaner sales, was displaced at the top by Wal-Mart in the second quarter, according to statistics released by Trendata, a leading market research firm based here.
For the second quarter of 1995, Wal-Mart held a 16.1 percent share of U.S. vac sales, compared with a 15.4 share for Sears. It is the first time Sears has not held the leading share.
"This is the first time that Wal-Mart has surpassed Sears," said Lou Pappalardo, research analyst with Trendata, "although they've been gaining steadily for some time."
Pappalardo attributed the shift to consumers' growing emphasis on price. He noted that in the second quarter of 1994, 27.4 percent of vac purchasers cited price as the reason they selected the brand they purchased. For the same period of 1995, he noted that number rose to 29 percent.
According to some industry sources, the real surprise is not that Wal-Mart, which operates more than 2,100 stores nationwide, has surpassed Sears, which has 800 stores, but that it took the Bentonville, Ark., behemoth so long to do it.
While Wal-Mart has gained a dominant share in many other categories in which it competes, Sears by virtue of its vac shop-style style merchandising philosophy, broad selection and service, managed to hold on to its top spot among vac retailers. However, among discounters Wal-Mart has one of the leading vac selections, say vendors, not just in terms of price, but in point-of-sale presentation. Unlike most discounters, which line up vacs along shelving with minimal information for consumers. Wal-Mart has separators between vac models and signs that give consumers information to help them make a choice.
Beth Schommer, who until recently was Wal-Mart's divisional merchandise manager with responsibility for vac sales, was cited by vac vendors as one of the industry's top buyers in HFN's Top 25 buyer survey [July 10].
She has recently been given a new area of responsibility, and Gary Severson has been named DMM for vacs. He was an electronics buyer for the company.
While Wal-Mart has posted a share increase, the vac industry overall had a slow time, with sales remaining flat compared with the second quarter of 1994, according to Pappalardo.
Trendata reported a slight increase in share for uprights in the second quarter, from 58.5 percent in 1994 to 60.5 percent in 1995. Hand vacs dropped off slightly, from 13.7 percent to 12.9 percent. Canisters and extractors remained relatively flat.
For the second quarter of 1995, cans represented 10.8 percent of vac sales, compared with 11 percent for 1994. Extractors, despite extensive media attention, have not had the growth that some in the industry expected, according to Pappalardo. Representing a 5.7 percent share in 1994, the segment grew to 5.9 percent for the second quarter of 1995.