LG, Samsung cooking up kitchens

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LG, Samsung cooking up kitchens

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From left to right: LG Electronics’ built-in refrigerator, slide-in oven electric range and dishwasher, then Samsung Electronics’ French-door refrigerator and slide-in double oven electric range. Provided by the companies

Local electronics companies are expanding their kitchen business, zeroing in on a growing “smart home” market.

LG Electronics said yesterday that it has launched LG Studio, a brand of premium kitchen electronics appliances, in the United States. Samsung Electronics’ similar premium kitchen brand, Club des Chefs, launched earlier this year, and both will be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

The demand for premium kitchen appliances is growing in many regions in the world. In the United States, a gradual recovery in the real estate market is expected to boost kitchen remodeling and the replacing of old appliances.

LG said some large-sized retailers have already let LG Studio in their stores, including RC Willey Home Furnishing, Allstate and Conn’s. LG is also in talks to set up LG Studio with Warners’ Stellian. It is planning to at least double the presence of LG Studio in the United States annually over the next few years, the company said.

The LG Studio packages the products at more than $10,000 in total, including built-in refrigerators, wall ovens and dishwashers.

“Starting with Korea and the U.S., we will strengthen our global presence in the premium home appliance business,” said Cho Sung-jin, head of LG Electronics’ home appliance division.

“We will expand our competitiveness in laundry machines and refrigerators into the overall kitchen appliance business and will foster the business as a world-class business.”

LG is also planning to expand stores that sell exclusively built-in home appliances in Korea. Early this month, it opened stores in Busan, Daegu and Suwon and is planning to open another in Seohyeon-dong, Bundang, early next year.

Club des Chefs is crucial to Samsung’s goal of seizing the No. 1 spot in the global home appliance market by 2015. Under the project, launched in June, the company is trying to reflect world-renowned chefs’ ideas and know-how of cooking in the whole production process, from the planning to the release of a product.

It invited five chefs from overseas to several Club des Chefs workshops in Korea and the United States this year.

Samsung Electronics has excelled in smartphones and televisions, but has not been as impressive in the overall home appliance market. “Smart home” also draws the attention of Samsung, as the company is seeking to diversify its cash-cow portfolio amid concern over its growing dependence on the sales of smartphones.

At Analyst Day on Nov. 6 in Seoul, Samsung Electronics vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun said that Samsung will roll out kitchen products that “would make even Korean men want to prefer to be in the kitchen.” Korea, with its long Confucian tradition, used to discourage men from entering the kitchen.

Kwon said Samsung aims to be a “formidable power” in home appliance within several years.

“In terms of the size of the market, Samsung Electronics may look like it is focused on TV and mobile, but we are also putting our focus on the home appliance market in general,” Kwon said. “We will be able to create a great deal of value if we apply our diverse digital technologies to home appliance products.”

Samsung entered the U.S. home appliance market in 2003 and has logged about 14 percent annual growth on average in the market over the past six years.

The local market also is a good opportunity for home appliance companies. According to a market researcher, Gfk Korea, the sales of refrigerators priced at 2.5 million won ($2,361) or more accounted for 32.1 percent of all whole fridge sales through online and offline stores in Korea in the first 10 months of this year, up from 20.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.


BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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