SharkNinja, the number one upright vacuum cleaner brand, has added its innovative Anti Hair Wrap technology to its cordless line up and has plans to launch in the robotic vacuum cleaning category. New cooking devices under the Ninja brand are also in the pipeline for launch later this year.
According to Matt Broadway, SharkNinja president for Europe, the Anti Hair Wrap feature has already driven a 25% increase in like-for-like sales in corded uprights. Broadway anticipated the feature addition would drive the business from being number one in uprights to “being number one full stop”.
“A lot of people wanted a Shark cordless but have been waiting for the Anti Hair Wrap feature,” he said. “They are now out in the market and selling like hot cakes.”
Broadway revealed SharkNinja was poised to bring robotics into the UK and European floor cleaning category. “We are launching robots imminently,” he said, adding the market was underdeveloped and existing products were “expensive and not very good vacuums or clever robots”.
“We will be really disrupting the market to create value and bring Shark magic to that category,” he said.
A further two to three products will be added to the Ninja cooking appliance family in time for the peak season.
Jess Levy, SharkNinja’s vice president marketing EU, said the Ninja brand had enjoyed huge growth due to innovation. “We never stop innovating – there’s always something new in the offing,” she said.
Ninja launched four products last year: the Foodie multi-cooker, Air Grill, Air Firer and Blender and Soup maker.
Broadway said it was a bold move since the brand had not seen significant growth since the launch of the Nutri Ninja in 2014.
“It was a huge investment for us and a huge punt,” he said. Ninja has now secured 40-45% market share in those categories in which it operates. “It was great that it paid off and for our retailers as well,” Broadway said. “The counter top kitchen appliance area, with the exception of coffee making, needed grabbing by the horns and for someone to take control and pump value into the category. We are now doing that convincingly with heated cooking devices,” he said.
SharkNinja added the response from retailers had been great with strong partnerships with Currys, QVC and Sainsbury’s Argos. The latter demonstrated product in Sainsbury’s stores, using Sainsbury’s food and with the ability to purchase product from Argos Click and Collect points in store. “Retailers are seeing a lot of new stuff and it’s a challenging thing to decide who to back and who not to back but Sainsbury’s Argos and Currys got behind the Ninja range in a phenomenal way,” said Broadway.
“The category can be quite cluttered so it’s about the technology that we’ve brought to the table. The Foodie, for example, has to to more than just a pressure cooker or grill,” Levy explained.
“We think differently about who we are – that’s changed and will continue to change,” Broadway added.
TV advertising – Ninja has spent £2m on its recent cooking appliances campaign – in-store demonstrations, digital, video (SharkNinja creates an ‘out of the box experience’ for every product) social activity and five star customer reviews are all a key part of the marketing mix, said Levy. A chef has also recently been brought on board to focus on product development and testing and creating recipes “that are for everybody”.
The company’s new Leeds HQ also features two commercial grade kitchens and retailer customers have been taken to the parent company’s Boston base to meet chefs and to its R&D offices in London.
Broadway said the drum beat of the company is all around market research.
“There’s a relentless focus on consumer testing so we know, that when we launch a product, customers are going to be delighted with it and rate it highly with five star reviews,” Levy added.
High ratings and low returns were key selling tools. “Retailers have a lot going on but, when we show them the data and look at the customer reviews and return rates, they start to have confidence,” Broadway said.
With product sourced in China, factory closures due to the current coronavirus were proving challenging for the brand, Broadway said. “We are planning that much harder and working more smartly to make sure production is coming out.” Air freight and fast trains are also being deployed and the brand has upped its stockholding and is working closely with retailers to understand stock positions. Promotions and advertising plans were also being tweaked to deliver a dynamic response to the situation, Broadway said. “There have been two to three hairy weeks but production is starting up again. We are adapting to the situation, it’s been a good exercise in thinking on your feet. We are working with retailers to make sure shelves remain stocked.” Moving forward, Broadway suggested that “everyone who is focused on restarting production in China will be considering whether it’s good idea to have all your eggs in any basket and not just China”.
SharkNinja adopts a multi-channel approach to the market. As well as selling via bricks and mortar stores and to pure plays including AO.com and Amazon, it has a significant direct business, operated out of its Leeds HQ.
“Online retail has a huge role to play and physical retail has a huge role to play – it’s not my job to tell people where to shop and we work with retailers to make sure they all have a competitive range and offering,” said Broadway.
However, he cautioned against writing off physical retailers, especially for SharkNinja’s very tactile range of products. “Where we demonstrate we win and the in-store piece is critical to growth,” Broadway said.
Broadway revealed the company had expanded its team of in-store demonstrators/brand ambassadors and that they drove conversion while also ensuring customers get the product that’s right for them.
Influencers and celebrity chefs, including Nadia Sawahla, are also increasingly deployed to drive sales through user generated content and word of mouth, Levy added.
However, retail boundaries are changing, Broadway said and he referenced Amazon’s move into bricks and mortar stores. SharkNinja teamed up with the online giant at Christmas 2019 to feature products on the Amazon Treasure Truck, which toured the country. The brand also participated in bespoke advertising during Amazon’s broadcasting of the Premier League over Christmas.
“You don’t get invited to that party until you get to a certain size,” Broadway concluded.