The key to better vacuum cleaner sales is matching customers

While the full-sized vacuum cleaner market appears on the surface to be a mature and saturated product category, nothing could be further from the truth. The number of full-sized units sold per year has remained steady over the past three years, but the types of vacuum cleaners being sold are constantly changing.

Understanding the forces behind these changes and what the products have to offer consumers is key to understanding the industry. The electric floor-care industry encompasses at least five major product categories, each with its own dynamics, each with its own customer base. The floor-care business is not the business of selling vacuums, but rather the business of selling clean floors. Knowing the consumer’s cleaning needs and matching those needs to the unit that will do the best job is essential to establishing a thriving floor care business.

In each of the full-sized vacuum cleaner categories there are a wide variety of products with features to meet almost every cleaning need.


The upright style of vacuum is the most popular style of vacuum sold in the United States. Uprights are used for thorough rug and carpet cleaning because the motor is closer to the actual cleaning and as such provides greater suction.

Most uprights employ a motor-driven brush roll to agitate the carpeting and dislodge dirt. This type of vacuum is best suited for wall-to-wall carpeting and rugs, large carpeted areas with heavy traffic and deep pile carpeting. There are two different basic upright vacuum cleaner designs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The direct air system blows air up from a surface and into a collapsible bag to create suction, while a by-pass system creates a vacuum by pulling air into a hard shell.

In the by-pass design, the motor pulls dirt off the floor from behind the bag. If the entire cleaning chain were laid out horizontally, the motor could be as much as 3 feet away from the surface.

In a direct air system, the motor pulls from the surface and blows dirt back into the bag. If the cleaning chain were laid out horizontally, the motor would be inches away from the surface.

A direct air system generally creates greater suction than a by-pass system because the motor is closer to the cleaning surface. By-pass systems have the benefit of protecting the motor from damage from large objects being accidentally sucked into the cleaner.

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By-pass systems also are usually better suited to cleaning above the floor and as canister designs. There are, however, exceptions. Some models of the new attached tool uprights with direct air systems have been redesigned to make the cleaning hose attachment closer to the motor housing. This re-engineering has increased the efficacy of above the floor cleaning while maintaining the surface cleanability of the traditional upright.


The canister vacuum is the most popular style of vacuum sold worldwide. There are three basic types of canister vacuums: the straight suction canister, the compact canister and the power nozzle canister.

Most canister work of the principle of a clean air or by-pass cleaning system.

The Power Nozzle Canister: This unit has two motors, one inside the unit to create suction and another smaller fractional horsepower motor in a cleaning head to drive an agitator or beater brush roll. The power nozzle is tethered to the main unit by extension wands, a hose and an electrical cord to power the motor.

The power nozzle gives the canister the ability to clean carpets as well as an upright by offering the positive agitation of the beater bar brush.

Canisters with power nozzles can clean both hard and carpeted floors and perform above-the-floor cleaning.

 Compact and Straight Suction Canisters: These units are alike in their by-pass design and lack of power nozzle. Because of their portability, compact canisters are superior to uprights for cleaning walls, shelves, furniture and other areas.