Black & Decker

The Dustbuster

Carroll Gantz
Gantz, Carroll
The Dustbuster

The Dustbuster, the most successful product in Black & Decker history, was introduced in January, 1979. It was designed by Carroll Gantz, FIDSA, when he was Manager of the B&D US Consumer Power Tool Division’s Industrial Design Department. The Dustbuster created a new mass-market category of cordless, rechargeable hand-held vacuum cleaners, set the visual type-form for the new category and created a new household product business for B&D, enabling them to purchase General Electric’s entire Bridgeport, CT Housewares business in 1984. The two organizations merged in Shelton, CT and Gantz became Director of Design. Over a million Dustbusters were sold in its first year, four times that of the traditional hand-held vac market. Competitors soon flooded the market with dozens of imitations, a number of which were successfully litigated against by B&D because of a design patent covering its unique appearance and configuration. By 1985, the hand-held market was 6 to 7 million units annually, 90% of which was cordless, and 85% of that was B&D. By 1987, B&D’s annual sales were $1.791 billion, five times what they had been in 1972. The Dustbuster became an icon of popular culture. When the Smithsonian Institute acquired an original model in 1995, 100 millon had been sold. By 2004, 25 years after launch, total sales of it or its B&D descendants (there have been five or six redesigns) may be as high as 150 million, half again as many as the total number of VW Beetles sold in 60 years. In 1998, Windemere Durable Holdings acquired the B&D Household Product Business, and established Applica Consumer Products, Inc. It is the exclusive licensee for B&D Household products in North, South, and Central America. But B&D retained one important household product for itself—the Dustbuster, which continues to lead the hand-held vac category.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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