By Denise M. Roberts
120 Prairie Lake Rd., Unit E
East Dundee, IL 60118
Tel: (847) 551-9900
Offices: Chicago, Il; Bordeaus, France and Seoul, South Korea
Rick Sullivan, a 20+-year veteran of the consumer goods industry, joined Winix, Inc. as Director of Sales and Business Development in 2009. Previously, he held sales and marketing management roles with LG Electronics and Maytag Appliances, where he was responsible for LG and Kenmore brand cooking products manufactured and sold to Sears. Sullivan was also responsible for the launch of LG’s commercial laundry products in the US. At Maytag, he held field sales responsibilities, which included independent retail dealers and servicers as well as builder channel distributors. As spokesperson for the company, he provided a broad overview of the business, its history and its future.
Winix, Inc., founded in 1973 by Hee Chong Yoon as an affiliate of Samsung, is a family-owned business is listed on the KOSDAQ (Korean Stock Exchange) and has annual sales of approximately $250 million (USD) worldwide. An industry leader in home comfort products, water filtration and refrigeration components, Winix has manufacturing facilities in Shihung, and Bundang, Korea; Suzhou, China and Rayong, Thailand. Its branded products are sold throughout the world an the company is an OEM/private label provider to globally recognized brands such as Samsung, Electrolux, LG and Kenmore. Winix began as a manufacturer of industrial components and to this day is one of the largest manufacturers of evaporative systems used in refrigerators, air conditioning and dehumidification systems. In 1993, the business entered the finished consumer goods business with air cleaners and water purifiers. In 2000, the company name was changed to Winix, Inc, and became listed on the KOSDAQ. In 2004, Winix, Inc (USA) was established and a new brand signature launched. The company introduced air cleaners into the US market in 2005, with its proprietary PlasmaWave™ technology. In 2008, the firm entered the US dehumidifier market and introduced an innovative built-in-pump model. And, in 2011, it launched the Finecel™ line of water purification products in the US market.
“The company’s mission is to produce perfect products that are superior in innovation, performance and style and to build relationships based on integrity, fairness and compassion,” Sullivan said. “Throughout the world, Winix manufactures and sells air cleaners, dehumidifiers, heaters, water purification and hot/cold water dispensers. In Asia, Winix is one of the top providers of POU water installation and service in Korea. Winix provides initial product and filter replacement service with approximately 100 service agents throughout Korea. Based on our understanding of heat exchange; Winix has also been offered a grant by the Korean government to explore new geothermal technologies as an energy efficient means of heat exchange.
“In the US, Winix has been methodical about our growth strategy. We have entered the US market place one product at a time, creating opportunities through innovation, performance and design. With air cleaners, we combined true HEPA with our proprietary PlasmaWave™ technology. With our dehumidifiers we avoided the commodity mentality by focusing on high-end value added features and appealing design rather than a low price. In 2012, we will turn our focus in the US for the introduction of our POU water systems.” Already a leader in POU systems in Asia, the company will again use innovation and design as its cornerstone strategy into the US market. Its initial entry into the US will be the launch of its Finecel™ 3-Stage Ultrafiltration System.
“We are responding to the growing need for high performance POU filtration that focuses on health, the environment and ease of use,” Sullivan continued. “ In addition to producing absolutely no wastewater, our Finecel™ system combines the highest quality of UF membrane with highly effective carbon block filtration. But then we add an incredible style, as well as smart features not found in the industry today. Going forward we intend to utilize our water expertise and launch a cadence of innovative, stylish and feature driven products into the US market. We continue to see the demand for Air and Water filtration products to grow as consumers are becoming more aware of the hazards found in the air they breathe and the water they drink.”
Sullivan went into detail about the challenges the company has already faced, those that are on the horizon and how they are being overcome. “Our methodical growth strategy in the US has allowed us to enter a category, learn the market, costs and pit falls before moving onto the next product offering. Home comfort products, such as dehumidifiers and air cleaners, have traditionally been sold through the mass merchant channels. As their costs have increased and competition has heightened, they push back harder than ever on their suppliers for lower and lower costs. Rather than lowering our quality, Winix has elected to focus on innovation that offers true user benefits that consumers are willing to pay for.”
“In recent years the proliferation of Internet retailing has created new and unforeseen challenges almost overnight. Pricing practices that have long been established were suddenly ineffective. Winix understands that the Internet, big box stores and the independent retailer are all critical cogs in a successful sales strategy. Our sales and marketing efforts look closely at protecting the needs of each of these channels as we develop our products and strategies. Additionally we have seen the growing impact of social marketing, bloggers, and consumer reviews on our products. We have learned to take their comments to heart and truly listen to what they are saying to provide products more in tune to their needs.
“Winix focuses on innovation, performance and style. Innovation is what has gotten us in the door in the US. Performance has built rave consumer reviews for our products and earned us the position of OEM manufacturer of many globally recognized brands such as Samsung, Kenmore, Electrolux and LG. But style has differentiated us from the pack. Our dehumidifier entry into the US was a finalist in the International Housewares Association Design Awards. The first time ever a dehumidifier was recognized for style and design. In subsequent years our air cleaner was also recognized by the IHA for design. This focus on design now carries down to our entry into the US water filtration market with our stunning and aspirational look found on our three-stage ultrafiltration POU System.
“We continue to see the demand for air and water filtration products to grow as people are more and more aware of the hazards in the air they breathe and the water they drink. Consumer awareness of their own impact on the environment will mean less and less disposable bottled water and more demand for POU systems. Additionally, we see opportunity with affective alternatives to RO as municipal regulation further restrict water usage and try to reduce wastewater emissions. The water conditioning industry as a whole relies on the expertise of the local water professional who understands the unique properties of the local water sources. Yet these local experts face mounting competition from the big box retailers and the Internet. One thing that they have that none of these other channels have is access to the consumers’ home. To remain successful they have to learn how to leverage this ‘in the home’ advantage and make themselves more important to the consumers. They have to go beyond just water conditioning by offering other complementary solutions such as drinking water and air filtration products.”