They call it ProBusiness, and
the name suits it perfectly. Anything "pro" indicates "action," and that
is exactly what these companies are taking.
Lisa Bonnema, Editor, APPLIANCE Magazine
"It's a matter of fact that most of the small and medium companies do not have the capacity to resist the expansion of the big international companies," Heinz Werner Ochs, chairman of ProBusiness, tells APPLIANCE. "They
need an association that takes care of their special demands in the
And so ProBusiness ElektroHausgeräte
e.V. was born. The German organization is essentially a joint marketing
initiative for smaller appliance companies that make electrical housewares
and have distribution in Germany. Member benefits include coordination
and development of promotional activities and materials, most of
which revolve around trade fairs.
"An association like ProBusiness can synchronize specific demands and push these demands through and strengthen the individual competitiveness," explains Mr. Ochs. "Every
company is 100-percent independent in their own strategy and policy,
but in some areas, they speak with one voice."
One of the main drivers for creating the organization was the HomeTech Cologne 2004, the new combined trade fair comprising the former Domotechnica, which was last held in 2001, and HomeTech, which debuted in 2002 in Berlin.
"In 2003, there was the possibility that there would be no leading fair for appliances in Germany any more because the big players didn't want to attend HomeTech Cologne," says Mr. Ochs. "The
result? Small and medium companies would have no chance to present
their brands and sell their products to an international audience."
Knowing that smaller companies
still needed a way to get their names and products in front of international
trade partners, the group officially formed in May 2003 and immediately
started searching for venues to promote itself. After negotiating
with several exhibition companies, ProBusiness chose trade fairs Ambiente
(Frankfurt, Germany) and HomeTech (Cologne, Germany)—both held in late-February—to
internationally debut ProBusiness.
"In some cases, this had a mutual effect; more companies decided to exhibit [at HomeTech] after ProBusiness's decision was published, and our members had an excellent performance," says Mr. Ochs. "The
success would not have been realized if only one or two started negotiations.
Eleven companies had more weight and got attention."
The group currently has 16 member companies based throughout Europe. Members include French iron producer Domena, Swiss espresso/coffee machine maker JURA, and Irish floor care company Glen Dimplex, among many others. All participating companies must have German distribution and must also be a member of German electronic trade association ZVEI. New members also have to be approved by current participants before joining.
Even with just a little
more than a dozen members, ProBusiness claims to have 30 percent
of sales in the German market, with the goal to get bigger. "We want to increase the number members in a selective way to get more and more attention by the market partners," Mr.
It may also be gaining attention
of its larger competitors. When asked how the "big guys" of Europe's appliance industry are reacting to ProBusiness, Mr. Ochs responded, "In
general, we can say that the development of our organization is watched
very carefully and with interest by other companies."
With the vast amount of
consolidation that has taken place during the last several years—both in Europe and worldwide—it is refreshing to know that there is still room for "the little guy," even if it does mean combining forces. What is even more refreshing is that these companies—some of them competitors—are
willing to work together to achieve a common goal, a strategy not
typical of the appliance industry.
Sure, it's only a few months
old, but I think this humble German organization might be on to something.
While I know a group like this probably wouldn't go over in the U.S.
because of anti-trust laws, if done correctly, this just might help
give smaller European appliance companies the brand awareness they
need to stay alive, especially in some of Europe's regional markets.
And if the "big guys" of Europe continue to stay out of the trade fairs so that the "little guys" can
get the full attention of attending retailers and wholesalers, perhaps
tomorrow's small appliance market has room for more than three or
four players after all.
A Few Changes
As you page through this
month's issue of APPLIANCE, you'll notice that we've made some updates.
First, on page 21, is a new department called Executive Corner. Using
Q&A, this new department gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts
of leading appliance industry executives on topics ranging from how
they handle financial crises to international competition. Our debut
features Invensys CEO Richard Haythornthwaite, who has managed to
keep his Appliance Controls and Climate businesses alive in a challenging
market. Keep your eyes peeled during the next few months for the
executive to be featured, which we promise is one OEM executive you'll
want to hear from.
The next "update" can be found on pages 46-50. In an effort to better represent the industry, we've changed the name of our biannual Coil Winding section to Electrical Manufacturing. The change was made in conjunction with the Electrical Manufacturing & Coil Winding Association's decision to rename its annual exhibition to Electrical Manufacturing Expo (formerly Electrical Manufacturing & Coil
Winding Expo). As with the Expo, which will take place on Sept. 20-22,
our updated section will now give readers a broader scope of coverage
on the new components and processes used in electrical manufacturing.
As always, we want to know what you think of our editorial coverage as we add new departments and features to keep you up-to-date on what's happening in the ever-changing global appliance industry. Let us know how we're doing.