Panasonic Looks to Grow Housewares
By David Gill
Since becoming president of Panasonic Home & Health Co. in January, Dan Silver's goal is to make his company's name as big in housewares as it is in consumer electronics.
With that philosophy, Silver said the company is looking for double-digit sales growth in housewares, including shavers, microwaves and massage chairs.
Silver's appointment put him in charge of the home-appliance group (microwaves, irons and vacuums), wellness group (massage chairs, shavers and beauty products) and home-environment group (ventilation fans).
A key reason, Silver said, why Panasonic is not as well known for its housewares, personal care and home-environment products is because in the past the company chose to market them based on their technology, rather than their usefulness.
Silver is addressing this with a new marketing plan that is shifting the focus onto the consumer. "I'm always someone who asks, 'Is the product solving a problem?'" he said. "With our new marketing strategy, we're saying, don't harp on the technology. Show the results."
As an example, Silver cited the Panasonic 360? iron, which the company said works 25 percent faster than other irons.
"When we first saw it, we had our doubts about the claim," he said. "Then we saw it work. It can iron back and forth, unlike other irons, and that makes it faster. When we saw that, it was a no-brainer."
In the cooking and home-health categories, Panasonic is elevating the products' performance through partnerships with the Culinary Institute of America for cooking merchandise and the American Association of Chiropractors for massage chairs.
Silver also said Good Housekeeping has tested and bestowed its seal of approval on home products. "We've dialed this up on our packaging," he said.
The Panasonic parent company is still in the process of absorbing its acquisition of Sanyo, which may eventually affect Silver's area because Sanyo manufactures some of the same products, such as massage chairs, microwaves and small-electric cooking appliances.
"Sanyo has more than we do in cooking products and stronger distribution," Silver said. "They also have a wider range of personal-care products. It may also give us the opportunity to explore private-label programs. These discussions are going on."
Silver added that Panasonic will not grow the business at the expense of profit. "We have been told that we have to grow by double digits, and that's my intent," Silver said. "But we will maintain our profit levels so we can invest back into the business. And the equation we will use to grow involves new products, marketing through partnerships with experts, channel growth and explaining our products so that consumers understand how those products can help them.".