Charles Gordon, managing director of whatvacuum.com, an internet portal and independent authority on “fair deal floorcare” offers consumers expert advice on floorcare and helps retailers to realize the opportunities presented by this sector. Anna Ryland reports.
Having spent the first part of his professional career marketing such FMCG brands as Nestle, Tetley and Campbells, Charles Gordon entered the electrical industry where for twenty years he worked in floorcare, first as Hoover’s group marketing director and then as BISSELL’s international sales director.
In early 2011, he founded whatvacuum.com – an internet portal and “the voice of everything in the world of vacuums, carpet and floor cleaning.”
“The original concept of the company was something I came across in Australia where there are companies specializing in vacuum cleaners, cleaning, and floorcare demonstrations,” reminisces Charles Gordon. “However I wasn’t ready to invest in brick & mortar retailing and wondered whether I could do the same using the internet.”
“Consumers are using the internet as a research tool to find what’s available to them and at what price. In the floorcare market because of the dominance of the certain brands there hasn’t been an independent perspective on the market, including impartial way of testing the products. Consumers have a lot of choice but they lack knowledge to be able to choose between products and brands on the market and are unsure how to look after carpets and different types of floors. Moreover, very few floorcare manufacturers have links with carpet manufacturers and this leads to variety of problems. For example some brushes are built in such a way that they pull threads out of the looped carpets. Hard floors are another area where there aren’t many dedicated products which are effective without destroying natural wood. I thought that this situation created a golden opportunity to create a company like whatvacuum.com.”
Using his 20 years in the industry, Charles reviews individual brands and new models. He publishes news on “what sucks and what doesn’t” and the latest trends in floorcare. He also gives advice on how to care for carpets, rugs and hard floors.
“I do product demos and we have a group of independent specialists who conduct product tests similar to these done by the car magazines. “I also sell product online. In addition to the brands I represent I sell end-of-line products. I am trying to avoid any conflict with bricks & mortar retailers.
“In terms of products, I look after the Thomas range, German mulit-purpose cleaners, equipped with a water filtration system. I also sell Nilco, wet and dry cleaners, a few hand held cleaners, 3-in-1 products and a range of formulas.
Floorcare for indies
The target market of whatvacuum.com are both consumers and retailers. Charles points out that independents often don’t have the right products on display. “Right in sense of customer interest and their ability to generate customer traffic to the store.
“With my 20 years in the sector, I would like to give independent retailers service and advice on floorcare – which models to stock to attract consumer interest and generate sales. They need to stock the core products: a good quality upright and a good cylinder cleaner, a good value item, a few hand-helds and a stick. They should try to have a small demonstration area where customers can try these products. Retailers should negotiate with manufacturers to have a free demonstration model – even if this is a return product. If the consumers come to your store instead of going online they should be given an opportunity to get a feel for the product. For many people weight is an issue – and they can only check product suitability in the store.”
“There are very few truly innovative products on the market at present. The majority are me too products,” argues Charles.
“However there are many opportunities in robots – bigger robots, and in the hard floor area. Over 50% people now have hard floors in their homes. Also with eco labeling on the horizon, the industry would have to start clearing a number of misunderstanding relating to power and performance of cleaners.
“Allergy is one of the areas that manufactures have problems explaining to customers. Hepa filters vary enormously in terms of their effectiveness and by themselves are not a solution for allergy sufferers, as some machines are not well sealed and ‘leak’ dust and allergens into the atmosphere. Very few customers realize this.”