Nonessential home appliances in demand
The mother of a 5-year-old also has an air conditioner in her apartment, but is worried about the electricity cost. She heard that the air circulator helps cut costs by 30 percent even if she keeps the air conditioner on throughout the night.
Niche home electronics are gaining popularity in Korea. As the market for primary electronics and appliances such as TVs, refrigerators and laundry machines reaches maturity, companies are trying to create new products to reflect changing consumer demands.
Leading the way are dehumidifiers. Annual growth of dehumidifier sales at E-Mart was 109 percent last year, the highest among all small-sized electronic home appliances sold at the store, according to the retailer. In the first half, sales of dehumidifiers rose by 25 percent compared with the same period last year.
Air circulators are on the right track to becoming a hit product, too. A circulator is an electric fan that pushes air much farther than a conventional electric fan; while an electric fan blows air 4 meters to 5 meters (13 feet to 16 feet), an air circulator can be felt from up to 20 meters away.
If an air circulator is used at the same time as an air conditioner, the conditioner can be set at 25 degrees, but the air will feel as if the device is set at 20 degrees.
Sales of air circulators at E-Mart for May and June were nearly double the same period last year.
Hyundai Home Shopping has seen success with its dryer sales this year. The TV retailer has aired a sales pitch for a small clothes dryer five times since April, and each time it sold about 820 million won ($800,000) worth of the product.
The popularity of dryers and dehumidifiers is related to gradual climate change on the Korean Peninsula toward subtropical temperatures. “As the number of hot and humid days [per year] is rising, we thought a clothes dryer would be able to become as popular as dehumidifiers,” said Lim Dong-yup, a fashion merchandiser at Hyundai Home Shopping.
Lifestyle changes are also leading to changes in the home appliance market, and electric ranges are a good example.
Lotte Hi-Mart sold twice as many electric ranges in the first six months of this year as it did in the same period last year. “As people are increasingly interested in safety and the environment, they are looking for more energy-efficient electric ranges or electric ranges with smaller risks of fire,” said Kim Eun-sang, an employee at Lotte Hi-Mart.
The popularity of cordless vacuum cleaners is also in line with lifestyle changes. The number of single-person households in Korea is rising, along with the number of couples where both people work and the number of households with pets. Those trends mean that more people are cleaning one part of their living space at a time instead of cleaning the whole apartment.
E-Mart said a growing number of customers are buying cordless vacuum cleaners in addition to the conventional vacuums they already have. The retailer said sales of vacuums grew 1.2 percent in the first half of this year from compared to last year, but sales of cordless vacuums jumped by 100 percent.
Sales of small laundry machines are also increasing due to an increase in two-income or one-person households.
Lotte Hi-Mart said it sold 20 percent more small-sized laundry machines in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.
Portable air conditioners, also called portable coolers, weigh only 6.5 kilograms (14 pounds) and are also becoming trendy.
Cool Presso, a portable cooler from Samsung Electronics that started selling last month, is quickly gaining popularity, the company said, although the company has not released sales data yet.
“If there are only two people in the room, it could become difficult for them to set the target temperature, as one may like it being cooler, and the other not,” said a Samsung Electronics official. “A portal cooler can be a good option for cooling.”
LG Electronics has started renting out LG Styler, a clothing management cabinet that helps unwrinkle clothes as well as dry and sanitize them to expand the product’s popularity.
Body Friend, a local company that sells and rents out home appliances, recently released the electronic rice miller called Mom’s Mill.
“Secondary home electronics appliances are emerging as a new horizon for the local electronics market,” said Kim Hong-keuk, a senior official of E-Mart.
BY CHOI JI-YOUNG and MOON GWANG-LIP [firstname.lastname@example.org]