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issue: April 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

An Issue on the Floor

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Editorial from Diane Ritchey, Editor, APPLIANCE Magazine

Manufacturers of floor care appliances may soon have to choose between two trade associations.

Diane Ritchey, Editor

For years, members of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association (VCMA) cooperated on matters of interest to both parties, such as regulations and government relations and engineering and technical issues.

In the past, AHAM's membership comprised manufacturers of major appliances, small electrics, and industry suppliers, until recently, when the Association changed its bylaws to allow manufacturers of floor care appliances to join it in a newly created floor care division.

Joe McGuire, AHAM president, told me that the reasons for expanding AHAM membership to include floor care manufacturers are several. Many current AHAM members that also produce floor care appliances, in addition to major or portable appliances, initiated the change to AHAM's product scope, he said. "Up until this year, we were not able to say that vacuum cleaners were part of our product scope. The logic was questioned by many, including our members, who thought that floor care was a natural fit under the AHAM scope. As the list of regulatory and technical issues impacting appliance makers has multiplied, a number of vacuum cleaner manufacturers urged AHAM to extend its issue management services to these products.

There are great synergies among current member manufacturers and floor care manufacturers, particularly with budding energy and environmental requirements and safety standards. As you know, the major appliance making associations in Canada, Europe, and Mexico include vacuum cleaners."

This step is significant for two reasons," Mr. McGuire said. "First, it offers an important value proposition to manufacturers of floor care appliances. AHAM's core services - technical standards work, legislative and regulatory advocacy, market data, and communications will be available to assist floor care members. And they can provide influence on emerging issues such as indoor air quality, standby power, and product safety. Second, this move is an important step in carrying out AHAM's strategic plan to be the preferred association for the home appliance producing industry."

The move was not well received by representatives of VCMA, which, since 1913, has represented manufacturers of household electric floor care products. Its members account for the vast majority of vacuum cleaner sales in North America. VCMA has seen its share of changes within the past year: It hired Thomas & Associates as its first professional manager in its history, created issues committees, and redesigned and updated its web site.

When asked about the impact that AHAM's new division may have on VCMA, Charles Stockinger of Thomas & Associates told me, "I believe that it is fair to say that a number of our members are most definitely not happy about the generally unexpected, unwelcome, and hostile initiative launched by AHAM. A similar initiative was thoroughly reviewed with VCMA's consent, by our Board, about 2 years ago during the management transition resulting from Cliff Wood's retirement. [Mr. Wood previously was executive vice president of VCMA before Thomas & Associates]. After careful deliberation, the Board decisively turned AHAM down, largely because of the enormous increase in cost such a move would mean in terms of a dues increase, while becoming a relatively small subset of AHAM. AHAM also has relatively little experience with this industry or its products, or the VCMA's programs and activities, compared to current management, which is in a much better position to focus undivided attention on the industry and VCMA's membership."

When all is said and done, he added, VCMA doesn't believe its members will be confused about which association to belong. "The choice is pretty clear, and very much the same as it was 2 years ago," he said.
VCMA amended its bylaws that resulted in three changes to membership. However, Mr. Stockinger said the changes resulted from a year-long planning project and analysis, and not from the AHAM initiative.

Companies are now eligible for VCMA membership if they manufacture or market vacuum cleaners into the North American market. Previously, Full members had to have manufacturing facilities in North America. In addition, the requirement to manufacture "residential" vacuums has been eliminated so that products intended for commercial use will also be covered within the scope of VCMA. Lastly, an Associate member category of industry suppliers has been established.

Bud Kirkpatrick, president of H-P Products, Inc. and current VCMA president, said that the expansion of VCMA will "allow VCMA to better address issues in the marketplace and speak with a greater industry voice.

Traditional U.S. or North American based manufacturing trade associations, which have been the norm for many years, are responding to broader marketplace issues by changes such as the ones recently made by VCMA. By interacting with a broader manufacturing and marketing base and working more closely with suppliers, the industry's ability to respond to various issues and provide the greatest value to its membership will be greatly enhanced."

Mr. McGuire said he urges all floor care manufacturers, whether involved in a trade group or not, to consider the value represented in AHAM. The first AHAM floor care division meeting will be held this month, in conjunction with AHAM's annual meeting from April 6-8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. At that time, Mr. McGuire said, floor care members and prospective members will be presented the full plan for providing services to this new division. Should the division want similar representation and services as the major and portable appliance divisions, AHAM said it will be ready to serve them. "We are dedicated, equipped to deliver, and are prepared to act as the eyes and ears and voice of the entire home appliance producing industry," he said.

While both Associations offer many benefits to floor care manufacturers, such as technical and standards programs, state and national regulatory monitoring, and interaction with key executives in the industry and allied associations, the question must be asked: Is there room for two trade associations representing floor care manufacturers, and if not, which can best serve the floor care manufacturing industry?


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