There are two notable anniversaries this year in the housewares industry.
First, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Lux 1, a vacuum cleaner invented by Axel Wenner-Gren, who founded Electrolux seven years later. According to an Electrolux statement, the Lux 1 was a breakthrough in that it was smaller, more affordable and more efficient than many of the vacuums then available. The Lux 1 was the first in a series of vacuum innovations from Electrolux, the latest of which is Brushroll Clean Technology, which provides one-touch brush-roll cleaning to ease vacuum maintenance.
Wenner-Gren is also credited with another innovation: door-to-door sales. Generations ago, it was not uncommon to see salespeople of all sorts of products—vacs, Fuller brushes, cosmetics, encyclopedias—ring the doorbell in order to demonstrate their wares right in the living room.
This year also marks the 90th anniversary of Andis, the personal care-products company. Founded by Matthew G. Andis, the company began its life in the basement of the Andis’ home.
Today, the company is still led by a Matthew Andis—only it’s now Matthew K. Andis, great-grandson of the founder, who runs the company along with his sisters, Marcia, senior vice president of market development, and Laura, senior vice president of finance. Matthew L. Andis, their father, continues as chairman.
Andis the company has maintained a long-standing record in innovations. Its first product was the Andis Clipper, a smaller and lighter version of the electric hair clipper. Along the way, it entered into the hair-care category, developing the first wall-mounted hair dryer, and moved into the animal-care market. Andis also went international early in its existence, debuting in the European market some 80 years ago. Today, the company’s product line is available in more than 90 countries.
But what may be even more remarkable about Andis is that it has made it this far with the founding family still in control. According to the Conway Center for Family Business, about 3 percent of all family businesses survive into the fourth generation.
Long life for anything business-related, whether it’s a product or a company, is getting increasingly rare in a world economy that’s had its struggles over the decades. The fact that Electrolux vacuums and Andis and its various products have made it as far as they have is worth a salute.—David Gill