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Appliance industry isn’t safe from the virus, either

Mar 11,2020
The consumer electronics industry is unlikely to reach sales targets this year as some of its top consumers - particularly newlyweds and college freshmen - have put their spring plans on hold amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A large consumer electronics store in Gangseo District, western Seoul, was decorated with promotional posters for new models, but customers were nowhere to be found Monday afternoon, leaving the store’s 10 employees to sit staring at the motionless entrance door.

“The drop started in January, but since February there aren’t many customers - even on the weekends,” said a store employee. “A few days ago, couples who were looking for home appliances for their new homes have contacted us [saying] that they have decided to postpone their weddings.”

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics released a series of new products, including air-conditioners and dryers, with strengthened artificial intelligence applications early this year. However, with consumers reluctant to visit the store in fear of increasing their chances of infection, new products have largely sat on the shelves.

New products introduced at CES 2020 earlier this year, including the vegetable cultivator and shoe refresher, have also fallen flat. As online marketing alone cannot generate sufficient sales, the industry is considering delaying the release date of new home appliances.

“Offline sales are more important for new products,” a consumer electronics official said. “Only when the products are touched and experienced by hand in offline stores will the products get popular online.”

And TV makers may miss out on the wave of demand from the possible cancellation of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The consumer electronics manufacturers had high hopes for TV sales because the host broadcaster planned to broadcast live all sports at 8K resolution for the first time. The Japanese government has indicated the show will go on, but uncertainty remains as the number of confirmed patients in Japan keeps rising.

Market research firm IHS Markit predicted that the global TV market could experience 9 percent negative growth in the first quarter, as the coronavirus epidemic in China has cut down the supply of LCD displays.

While demand for home appliances has shrunk as a whole, dryers with sterilizing functions are one bright spot. Samsung Electronics’ smart dryer, the Grande AI, sold 10,000 units in January as soon as it was launched, doubling the speed of early sales compared with the previous model.

Sales for the recently introduced LG Tromm Dryer Steam ThinQ are also higher than expected, LG Electronics said.

BY JANG JOO-YOUNG [kim.yeonah@joongang.co.kr]


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