- THE MAGAZINE
``Wal-Mart is selling a lot of $79 vacuums,'' said Eric Bosshard, an analyst with FTN Midwest Research in Cleveland. ``Most consumers can't tell the difference between a $79 and a $200 one. This is a way for Hoover to show'' consumers why its vacuums are worth the price.
But Hoover spokeswoman Lynne Dragomier said it's more than that. Hoover has always had a strong service program, and the company stores have always been profitable, she said. Now is just the time to push that face-to-face connection further.
``It gives us a very direct relationship with the customer,'' she said. People can buy or get repairs for the company's entire product line at such stores.
The Hoover Service Center in Fairlawn will open Friday in a former Ohio Tuxedo shop. Another one will open its doors May 1 in North Olmsted. Hoover has 65 stores across the country, including one near Westfield Shoppingtown Belden Village mall. Dragomier wouldn't say how many more will open or where they will be.
The stores, however, will give employees an opportunity to do hands-on market research.
For months, the company didn't have what people wanted, and it suffered because of that. The unit of Maytag Corp. missed the shift toward lower-priced vacuums and has been cutting jobs and playing catch-up ever since.
Hoover has released a host of new sweepers in the last few months to recapture consumers' eyes and pocketbooks. And it appears to be working, albeit slowly. Morgan Keegan & Co analyst Laura Champine doubts the additional service centers will help Hoover's sales much.
``It's a desperate attempt to regain customer support,'' she said. ``It's not a bad idea, but it's not going to solve all their problems.''
Hoover is depending on its new Diversified Products Division, including the carpet-cleaning service, to do that.
Pittsburgh and Atlanta served as test markets for the service, and it proved popular enough to expand into Northeast Ohio, said Jacquelyn Love of Hoover's marketing department.
The service, which operates out of Hoover's North Canton facilities, costs $30 for every 250-square-foot section of carpet. Residential customers tend to use it the most.
``People are responding very well to us,'' Dragomier said. ``We knew that the name would have a lot of equity.''