Whirlpool Corporation recently expanded to include the new brands Indesit and Hotpoint. What’s more, it’s celebrating its 25th birthday. We took the opportunity to interview the new marketing director at Whirlpool for the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Jakub Kadlec came to the Czech-Slovak representation of the Whirlpool Corporation from the position of marketing manager representing small household appliances. During a short time, he has already racked up a number of successes and experiences.
1) How are you currently doing and how has Whirlpool managed the integration process after acquiring Indesit? Can you explain the complexities, positive and negative moments of integration?
We are currently going through one of the further parts of the extensive integration process, which is a matter of several years according to the plan. In my career, I have encountered mergers between competing companies and it’s never been easy. In the case of Whirlpool and Indesit, the process is still ongoing. We have managed to harmonise production, use the best technologies for all our brands and unify business terms. The integration of financial systems is still ahead of us. In recent months we have had to cope with large fluctuation, and we believe we’ve managed to stabilize it; the experience, confidence and energy of all the colleagues at Whirlpool are our best asset.
2) This year you are celebrating 25 years, also with reference to the Slovak factory in Poprad. How do you perceive this anniversary and do you have any resolutions?
25 years is a fairly long time and there are certainly many reasons to celebrate - one of the key roles is played by the factory in Poprad, Slovakia, which Whirlpool entered 25 years ago. We are very proud to have remained the leaders in large household appliances throughout this time; we react quickly to trends, come up with innovations and above all retain customers’ trust in our products. The company has kept developing throughout, reacting to new challenges and seeking them - a major and very current example is the aforementioned integration with Indesit. Our resolution for the coming years is simple and still very much the same: consistently offer customers the best, strengthen all our brands and be an ideal partner for growing business to our business partners.
3) Can you tell the readers something about the KitchenAid brand? Do you have any information as to when the full range of large and small appliances might appear in your offer?
Among other things, the Whirlpool Corporation is the manufacturer of the premium, very traditional KitchenAid brand, which many instantly associate with the incredibly popular, iconic Artisan robots. With regard to the profile, portfolio and strategy of the KitchenAid brand, a different distribution model is consistently used than for other brands in the Whirlpool Corporation. This is why KitchenAid is not currently a part of the Whirlpool representation at some local branches, including the Czech Republic. This configuration is valid for the long term, and if any changes do occur, it will not be for a number of years yet.
4) The offer of Bauknecht appliances, which also belong to the Whirlpool family, has weakened recently. Why is that?
Bauknecht was added to the Whirlpool CZ range 7 years ago as a premium brand, dominated by characteristic design and advanced functions for demanding customers. Due to the said integration, the portfolio was of course integrated and there were crucial decisions made, including redefining the brand structure for the Czech and Slovak market. At this moment, the company portfolio for both countries includes Indesit, Whirlpool and Hotpoint. Hotpoint is seamlessly following up on the Bauknecht premium brand, with very good positioning. Bauknecht remains a traditional and strong brand for Germany speaking countries, where it has a fundamental position and strong, lasting popularity among customers.
5) How would you evaluate the Czech market in the sense of retail and e-commerce? Is it complex and does it have any particularities?
The area of e-commerce plays an immense role on the Czech market in general, which continues and will continue to strengthen. We natural reflect this in our large domestic appliance sales. We try to react to current trends, offer customers and business partners support in developing e-commerce. One of the current and very specific pieces of evidence, for instance, is our cooperation with AP Servis in the production of 360° photographs, which are a very modern element of e-commerce and allow the customer to decide about an online appliance purchase to a much greater scale than ever before.
6) Customers often ask about the country of origin of appliances. Can you explain the production centres for the best-selling categories to our readers?
The company owns several production factories, which are almost always focussed on a specific appliance category. Starting with the nearest one - we are very proud of the modern washing machine factory in Poprad, Slovakia - the original enterprise of the now legendary brand Tatramat. In 2017, it is precisely 25 years since the American company Whirlpool entered the company and a symbolic celebration of this event is the production of the new line of Whirlpool FreshCare+ washing machines. Another very important production facility is the plant in Radomsko, Poland, which specialises mainly in dishwashers, while Wroclaw and Lodž in Poland are crucial for the production of cooling appliances.
Other factories are located in several places in Italy, France, the UK, Turkey and Russia. What they all have in common is a high level of management and operation defined by superior Whirlpool standards. We also place major emphasis on development and testing across the plants.
7) Is the brand affected by the issue of IoT and what innovations can be look forward to in the near future?
We are of course reacting to this trend and invest into developing products and technologies which will bring the customer real added value. At present, the Czech market offers the Whirlpool washing machine with Connectivity technology – which you can control from your mobile device, and a fridge with the same system; the trio will soon be completed by a dryer, ideal for pairing with the washing machine.
Jakub, thank you for a great interview and we wish you lots of success at Whirlpool.