Cleaning up the competition

Appliance maker Miele has big (box) plans to topple rival Dyson in the battle for the best high-end vacuum

by Chris Sorensen

Imago

Miele, the German maker of high-end appliances, rolled out its first vacuum cleaner in 1927 and, in North America at least, has since been selling them mostly to discerning customers through specialty vacuum dealers—stores where a test-drive is encouraged (Miele’s most expensive vacuum model costs around $1,400). But this month the company is rolling out its cheapest-ever canister vacuum in Canada, the S2, which will sell for $399 at several big box retailers, including Sears, the Bay, Future Shop, Costco and Canadian Tire.

It’s the first volley in what is shaping up to be a high-end vacuum war—the kind not seen since the days when competing salesmen pounded on your front door trying to sell you on the latest and greatest. Miele is eyeing the mass-market success of British inventor Sir James Dyson’s bagless vacuums, which, despite their hefty price tags, have become bestsellers thanks to eye-catching designs, a unique marketing campaign that put Dyson front and centre, and, of course, its bagless “root cyclone” technology (and all of the suction-maintaining promises that come with it). But Markus Miele, the company’s managing director and great-grandson of company founder Carl Miele, warns consumers not to get sucked in by Dyson’s well-honed sales pitch. “With Dyson,” he says. “You still have to dispose of all that dust.”

By contrast, Miele’s German-engineered models have always come with disposable bags—a feature that the company claims makes them a better choice for health conscious consumers, and one it is not willing to part with just because bagless has recently become fashionable. Miele is also hoping the company’s family heritage, reputation for customer service and the fact that its vacuums are manufactured in Germany (Dyson vacuums are made in Malaysia) will also resonate with Canadian consumers.

But Miele will first have to convince Canadians of the desirability of canister-style vacuums, which are its specialty. Popular in continental Europe, canister vacuums are particularly capable on hard floors and make it easy to clean behind furniture or to do drapes. Miele is betting the S2, a canister, will appeal to affluent urban Canadians whose houses and condominiums are unlikely to be covered in wall-to-wall carpet, where upright vacuums like most of Dyson’s models are in their element.

Miele’s big-box retailer strategy is not without risk. “The big problem is that you can easily destroy the brand name if you go too down-market,” Miele says. As a result, the company says it will pay attention to the little things. Jan Heck, the president of Miele’s Canadian arm, says Miele vacuums will often be sold in their own display sections in stores and will come packaged in boxes with cutaways that allow shoppers to firmly grasp the vacuum’s handle so it can easily be carried to the parking lot.

And it’s not like Miele will be battling it out in the same price point as Eurekas and Dirt Devils. Although there are a handful of other expensive models out there, Heck says the average price of a vacuum cleaner sold in Canada is $150, which is less than half of the price of the S2. “It’s basically between us and Dyson,” Heck says. “And we’re here to educate people that the bagless vacuum isn’t good for you.”




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Cleaning up the competition

  1. The bagless is main reason I got a Dyson. I can dispose of dust outside easily (and really, it's pet hair and dirt, shock out in the open air, how bad can that be?) – it's a giant PITA to have to buy new bags all the time. (Also, rather convenient for Miele that you have continually shell out new money to operate your vacuum.)

  2. It sounds easy, when you say you're disposing of dust outside, it's no big deal, but think of the dust you get blown back into your face. Do you really want to be breathing that in? If you live in an apartment or condo, it would be tempting to empty your bagless container under the kitchen sink – do you want that dust which is microbes fine, most you can't see with the human eye, floating around your kitchen? If you have cool winters or snow, do you want to trek outside with your canister to empty it.
    Miele have ingenious bags, which self close when you remove them from the vacuum. No dust, no matter how small will escape, super for those that want to keep their homes clean, not recycle the dirt. Especially allergy sufferers.
    With bagless, you'll get hit with the cost of a filter later on anyhow, which aren't cheap. It's also tempting to keep using the vacuum beyond it's emptying capacity, 'cause you don't want to go outside in the rain/snow, and it will get clogged up inside. Your next outing will be to the repair shop.

  3. I agree with The realKuri, I do not want to spend money on the bags. I wish, miele will produce bagless vacuume

  4. Miele Fan… Do you actually work for Miele? Geez. In your response, you’re actually saying that Dysons are good because they can suck the microbes from the air, now that’s impressive. The filters in Dysons are able to be cleaned so you don’t need to buy new filters either. And what will you do when your inside rubbish bin is full of your (expensive) Miele vacuum bags you have to keep buying? You’ll have to treck outside to empty the bin anyway!

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