When it comes to carpet care equipment, high-end features can make a world of difference, says Keith Willey, marketing manager for Clarke Industries, Springdale, Ark. “‘Top-of-the-line’ features can make products world class performers,” he says. “In addition, high-end products reduce negative impacts on the environment and on the health and safety of their operators. They also reduce the impact on the wallets of the end user or distributor — they must be economical.”

Most carpet cleaning equipment manufacturers offer both “good” and “better” product categories to their customers, says Willey. “For instance, the upright vacuum — the most commonly used carpet care machine — generally falls in the ‘good’ category and is usually priced more attractively than its higher-end counterparts,” Willey says. “Those that purchase it are often price-driven and don’t think much about top-of-the-line features that might help them. That’s a mistake.”

Upright vacuum cleaners are the core business of Electrolux Home Care Products Corp., Bloomington, Ill., according to Brad Hoare, senior director of marketing for the company’s Sanitaire Brand. “We’ve got a new line of high-end uprights, namely our Contractor series, that are aimed at end users who want to improve their operating costs and their run times,” he says.

Electrolux has added features to help eliminate down time and to make on-site repairs significantly easier. These vacs have quick disconnect cords, removable and replaceable furniture guards, more durable wheels and fan chambers that allow for quick replacement of damaged fans.

“We sell our top-of-the line products for specific needs,” Hoare says. “We offer three different bag systems: high filtration bags that enhance indoor air quality (IAQ); shake-out cloth bags that enable end users to stop less frequently to empty paper bags; and dirt cups that eliminate the need to buy paper bags.”

Electrolux’s Contractor series of vacuums also features a conveniently located start switch. “It’s now an easy, thumb-activated switch located in the handle, rather than a step-on switch on the hood,” Hoare says.

Beyond The Vacuum
Windsor Industries, a Castle Rock Industries company, Englewood, Colo., markets its high-end Chariot platform, introduced in March 2005, as a multipurpose piece of equipment. Corporate market channel manager Bob Gorsky says the platform is a stand-up machine that fits several different cleaning operations, including Chariot i-Renew, an interim carpet cleaning process that uses encapsulation technology.

“The operator drives this machine which sprays the i-Renew chemical on the carpeting. The chemical is agitated on both sides of the nap by two cylindrical brushes. And there’s a hopper, which collects debris,” he says.

Additionally, Windsor introduced Chariot i-Vacuum, a wide area vacuum system for the same platform. The system has two versions. “The simple version is just a vacuum with two brushes turning in opposite rotation,” says Gorsky. “All of the dirt gets pulled into a large bag. The second version incorporates a special side brush, which allows the operator to get next to walls. It pulls debris that you are vacuuming into the path of the main brush. It also has special noise reduction system that’s well below the typical wide-area vac decibel level.”

And the company introduced a carpet extractor, the i-Extract for the same platform. This one uses dual cylindrical brushes in opposite rotation, has a hopper for spraying a detergent solution that is vacuumed by two vacuum shoes, and has a hopper for debris.

Protecting Health And Environment
The CFR equipment line includes the company’s most productive and highest performing carpet care equipment in their commercial division, says Ken Honaker, vice president of sales for the Powr-Flite and CFR companies, Fort Worth, Texas. CFR is now introducing the Cascade extractor, a self-contained walk-behind with a ‘green’ cleaning chemical. “And we manufacture an upright wand extractor unit in our Pro Series,” he adds.

Within CFR’s Pro series, the company offers Perfect Heat, a patented heating process that heats the cleaning solution prior to its going through the copper tubes surrounding the back loader, says Honaker.

“We utilize a patented process called ‘Continuous Flow Technology,’ which recycles water,” Honaker explains. “Normally, you’re dumping and refilling water about every hour and a quarter. But with our recycling technology, we actually cut in half the time the operator spends doing this.”

Honaker also touts the company’s patented Ozone Assisted Cleaning Process as a high-end feature. It ozonates the water prior to the solution actually touching carpet fibers. An ozone generator, designed to improve IAQ, is included in many of the company’s units.

Shawn Wright, Clarke’s product manager for soft floor products, says his company’s Image 16 and Image 20 extraction units have several important features.

Both have a two-spray wash and rinse system. “You spray your cleaner fluid down on the carpet and then an additional rinse cycle helps rinse the chemical out all in one pass,” he states. “That obviates the need to do a second pass on the carpet. It also helps the environment in that most people often neglect that second rinse and the carpet then resoils faster.”

Additionally, Clarke’s Image 16 and Image 20 extraction units are equipped with ErgoEX, a patented ergonomic harness belt system, which has been found to reduce shoulder strain by 80 percent, elbow strain by 60 percent, and lower back strain by 18 percent, says Wright.

New in Clarke’s lineup of products are the DMU 14 and DMU 18 dual-motor upright vacuums. “They come with standard, out-of-the box HEPA-type air filtration system as well as designed-in intelligence,” Wright explains. “The filtration protects IAQ, and an intelligent sensor informs the operator when it’s time to change a bag.”

Sensors in their brush motors alert the operator that the adjustment for pile height is set too low or too high.

The Productivity Factor
When the Cleanfix Corp., Wycoff, N.J., talks about top-of-the-line they point to their self-contained carpet extractor called The Ostrich. What makes it unique is its solution bladder, according to Doug Scouten, head of sales and product development. “It has twice the capacity at half the size,” he says. “It’s also unique because the rotation of the brush reverses so you’re cleaning and grooming the carpeting in two directions.

“The Ostrich has great visibility and maneuverability. Because it goes backward and forward easily, it doubles your production.”

Cleanfix has another high end product for carpets, says Scouten. It’s their Quad Vac, which consists of four vacuums and a high pressure hose that can be set up to be continuous feed and continuous discharge.

Tornado Industries has a broad range of carpet care equipment considered to be high-end, according to Jolynn Kennedy, marketing director for the Chicago-based manufacturer.

“Most of our products have been ranked ‘Best in Class’ in independent tests performed by Tandus Industries,” she says. These include Tornado’s CV 30 Vacuum, Pro Pac Backpack Vacuum, Marathon 800 and Marathon 1200 Extractors, Marathon 2000 Forward Extractor and PS 8220 Spotter-Extractor.

“They’re all top-of-the-line because they’ve been manufactured with the end user in mind,” she says. “We involved consumers, for example, in the design and development of the CV30, a very high-end vacuum with a true HEPA filter.”

Tornado identified customers’ unique needs and incorporated the results into the vacuum’s development. “All of our top-of-the-line products are durable, have high quality performance, are easy to use, and have ergonomic features,” she says.

Upgrading To A Better Product
Distributors can upsell their customers by emphasizing the benefits of high-end products, says Hoare. “Customers are motivated to buy benefits, not necessarily features. Distributors should strongly communicate the fact that a top-of-the-line product can do a better job of reducing or eliminating downtime, improving operating costs and facilitating on-site repairs.”

When contemplating a purchase, end users want to know how durable and reliable that piece of equipment is, and how quickly it can be fixed if there’s a problem, Hoare says.

“Our ad messages emphasize those facts about our products,” he says. “Knowing those features, our distributors can successfully persuade their end-user customers to upgrade,” he says.

Cleanfix communicates important product information to its customers through print and online advertising, as well as through training, says Scouten. “We believe that it’s important for a manufacturer’s sales reps to educate distributors about the unique benefits and features of products. Armed with that information, distributors are then better able to demonstrate the time-saving aspects and the thorough cleaning that high-end equipment accomplishes.”

To facilitate upselling, Clarke advertises in the print media as well as on the Internet. “We communicate to distributors the bullet points that demonstrate that our products are unique and high end,” says Willey. “We also publicize the fact that the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) certifies our products.”

Windsor Industries also provides its distributors with quality marketing tools that can be used to persuade an end user to purchase high-end equipment, says Gorsky. “That’s extremely important. What’s equally important is to make those marketing tools simple and easy to understand.”

Jordan Fox is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.