Promising quick installations and easy profits, the central vacuum industry looks to custom dealers to get its systems into American homes
By Joe Paone
Central vacuum, as a product category, has a big consumer awareness problem in this country.
Ask the average man or woman on the street about vacuuming, and they'll likely talk about the vacuum cleaners with which we all grew up—bulky machines that you plug into an outlet and walk around a room, machines to which the central vacuum industry refers as "portables." These consumers will ooh and ahh over the latest nationally advertised high-tech products from Oreck and Dyson, or they'll instinctively think of the hand-me-down Hoover they might use on a regular basis.
Mention central vacuum systems, however, and you're as likely as not to get a confused, blank stare, or in some cases, a statement on how prohibitively expensive such systems must be.
Give the central vacuum industry this: it's upfront about its awareness problem. But it's not about to give up the fight, either. It maintains that its products, which essentially suck dirt into conveniently placed inlets around the house and route it through pipes in the walls to safely ensconced repositories in the basement or the garage, provide a superior cleaning solution to portables, and are much easier to use.
"The benefits are definitely there," says Randy Collis, sales and marketing manager for central vacuum manufacturer Hayden. "It's just a matter of education."
"It's been 40 years, waiting for this market to happen," says Grant Olewiler, general manager at M.D. Manufacturing. "In the U.S., it hasn't happened yet. But we're poised for marketing to the high end. This is truly a sleeping giant awaiting a major growth explosion."
"We have an awareness problem," says Paul Runyan, Beam Industries' national sales manager. "Not enough people know about central vacuum. We as an industry need to improve promoting central vacuum systems and the fact that we help solve indoor air quality issues."