Whirlpool’s stock was falling nearly 7 percent Thursday morning a day after the appliance manufacturer delivered earnings and sales for the second quarter that missed Street estimates.
On a call with analysts and investors Thursday morning, the clear elephant in the room was quickly mentioned — Sears recently signing a deal to sell Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com. The day Sears announced this partnership, shares of Whirlpool, Home Depot, Lowe’sand other providers of home appliances immediately dropped.
Though Whirlpool makes products for other retailers, it also manufactures Kenmore appliances for Sears. The main question — regarding Sears selling on Amazon — remains how industry pricing will be impacted as a result.
Nameplates like Whirlpool, Kenmore, GE, Panasonic and Maytag are all popular in the home appliance space today. Yet, some brands are doing a better job than others of growing their presence online, where more and more shoppers are inherently ringing up big purchases.
“In the short term, given that we produce Kenmore … there are certainly [no] negative impact on us, if at all, [it could be] neutral to even slightly positive,” Whirlpool COO Marc Bitzer said on Thursday’s earnings conference call. “In the long term, strategically, I think many things have to be seen. … Obviously we need to see how strong the sell-through is on this one.”
Bitzer went on to say he’s looking to see “to what extent [this partnership] can mitigate the inherent Sears decline.”
“We expect that our agreement with Amazon to launch Kenmore products on Amazon.com will significantly expand the reach of the Kenmore brand and drive growth opportunities across three of our divisions – Kenmore, Sears Home Services and Innovel – as well as our Kenmore manufacturing partners,” Sears spokesman Howard Riefs told CNBC in a statement in response to Whirlpool’s comments.
In short, Whirlpool executives aimed to convince investors Thursday that Sears’ new venture on Amazon.com is neither a “good nor bad impact” for the company.
Meantime, analysts continued to probe the company with questions about Amazon as a disruptor in the space.
Whirlpool is unique in that its online presence largely depends on its existing trade partners — Home Depot, Lowe’s and even Sears. Bitzer called the Sears news an “interesting development” and said, for now, Whirlpool-branded products are staying off Amazon.com.
“Our position is and always has been [we’ll] be where our consumers want to shop,” Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said. “And we’re doing that today with the trade partners we deal with. … We will make decisions to make sure we are appropriately represented in the value chain.”
In other news, it had already been announced that Fettig will step down as CEO of Whirlpool, effective Oct. 1. Bitzer will succeed Fettig.
On Wednesday, Whirlpool lowered its profit outlook for 2017 on account of the rising costs of raw materials. Currency headwinds and tax bills are also seen as hurting the manufacturer’s financials.
With Thursday’s declines, Whirlpool’s stock has fallen more than 7 percent over the past 12 months. The shares are down about 2.7 percent for the year.