The Magazine of The Electrical Goods Industry www.gcmagazine.co.uk
NEW YEAR MOVES The start of a new decade has seen a flurry of personnel movements around our industry. GC charts the flow of talent
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RETAIL 2020 Consumer Electronics retailing is changing fast. Stephen Mears of Futuresource Consulting shares some insights into the trends in direct selling, bricks-and-mortar and multichannel retail in 2020
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SUSTAINABLE PLANET The UK public is taking a deep interest in climate change and the fate of the planet that now goes well beyond a vague feeling that we all need to do something. GC looks at the practical, commercial benefits our industry can derive from knowing the facts and figures, taking positive steps towards sustainability, and being able to communicate them clearly and persuasively to concerned consumers
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The Word In and around the industry
New Year Moves The reshuffles, promotions and career moves at the start of a new decade
The changing Consumer Electronics retail landscape: Stephen Mears of research organisation Futuresource Consulting examines how the balance between vendor direct, multichannel and physical store retailing is changing, and how this will affect Consumer Electronics distribution in 2020
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Sustainable Planet Feature The new decade has seen a massive rise in consumer concern about personal and corporate sustainability. GC looks at how the electrical industry is responding to the new ecoconsciousness, and how “saving the planet” has become an aspiration neither manufacturers nor retailers can afford to ignore
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George Cole Gets Connected More TV screen resolution than meets the eye
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22 From the Bench Dual-layer TV screens deliver “best yet” LCD
Brexit has been like the toothache. We all know that feeling when it becomes the only thing you can think about, and if only the pain would go away your whole life would be happy and entirely problem-free. And then you have the tooth out and suddenly all the other problems reclaim their place in your life
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Marlinda Conway Editor in Chief
xactly one year ago, in the first GC issue again to give them our full attention. Having (or of 2019, this column was complaining even believing we have) a clear idea of what’s about the inability of politicians to get it in front of us, is a challenge we can rise to with done, and the serious effect this was having on new vigour and no distractions. When consumers UK businesses. have more confidence that they can see the road And then, in our last issue of 2019, the theme ahead – however hard it may be - they’re willing was the same, and we were demanding: “for to invest in their own lives, and to spend money heaven’s sake just give us a result – any on the goods and services that will make result – so we can plan what to do their lives better. next.” Interestingly, one of the big Well, we have a result. As problems the public seems to “The first of 31 January 2020 the UK have taken an even greater euphoria of relief is no longer a member of interest in at the beginning now gives way to the the European Union, and of this new decade is realisation that, on top we have, by all accounts, climate change. Whether of all those neglected left with a deal. So now, or not you believe it’s problems, there’s with that troublesome tooth happening, the general still a lot of work extracted and the pain dying consensus is that it can no away, all the other problems to do” longer be denied, and many we always had, and that we individuals believe they can should have been addressing for help mitigate it by taking personal the last three years, are right here responsibility for the things they buy again, older and bigger and uglier and more and the energy and resources they consume. acute than before because of neglect. It is going to be a major theme in domestic The first euphoria of relief now gives way to electrical appliances in 2020 and beyond, the realisation that, on top of all those neglected and where there is a general consumer problems, there’s still a lot of work to do and appetite for reducing personal and household a lot of negotiations to be concluded before carbon footprints, there is an opportunity for our disentanglement from the EU is really manufacturers and retailers to work together to accomplished. deliver the appliances and the information to But there really does seem to be a kind of satisfy it. muted optimism in the country. We know we have It’s a genuine win/win: Save the planet. Sell problems, but we also know we are able once more appliances.
Terry Heath Editorial & Publishing Director
Will Dobson Creative Director
James McIntosh Consumer Consultant
George Cole Consumer Electronics Consultant
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DISCOUNTING AND THRIFT ON THE HIGH STREET UK retail sales saw a marginal rise on a total basis in January, supposedly due to aggressive discounting by retailers during the month.
ccording to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG, total sales increased 0.4% against an increase of 2.2% in January 2019, but like-for-like sales were flat, following a rise of 1.8% in the preceding year. Online, sales of non-food items increased by 2.5% against growth of 5.4% in January 2019, although the penetration rate continued to rise, up from 29.5% to 30.6%. Paul Martin, Partner, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Consumer confidence has started to return post-General Election, but we have not experienced any major leaps for the sector yet. “We have to remember this semi-positive performance will also be the result of aggressive discounts and consumers’ preoccupation with bagging a bargain. That’s not always good news when looking at bottom lines.” Chief Executive of the BRC Helen Dickinson said recent political uncertainty and a decade of austerity appear to have “ingrained a more thrifty approach” among shoppers. “Furthermore, as sustainability continues to rise up the agenda, many customers are switching to more environmentally friendly products or simply choosing to buy less. These effects are not just limited to the high street as growth in online purchases also slowed.” KPMG’s Martin added: “January is usually a quieter month for retail, and although static sales might not appear triumphant, at least it is no further deterioration.
NON-FOOD RESPONSIBLE FOR JANUARY SHOP PRICE DECLINE P
ressure on prices in the non-food sector of retail led to overall shop prices falling 0.3% in January compared to a 0.4% decrease in December. The figure is below the 12-month average decline of 0.0% and above the 6-month average of 0.5%, according to data from the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen. While food inflation accelerated to 1.6% in the first month of the year, non-food prices fell 1.5% – the same rate of decline as in December – prompting the BRC’s Chief Executive Helen Dickinson to assert that “shoppers will cheer”. The figures for non-food represent the continuation of a long-term trend. Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight at Nielsen, put the sector’s plight down to no inflationary pressure coming from the high street as shoppers remain nervous about spending. “Hence, discounting continues for many non-food retailers,” he added. Whilst promotions in Supermarkets returned to more normal levels after Christmas, Watkins said the non-food sector remains “embattled” with fierce price competition which looks set to continue.
RETAIL AGONY: JOB LOSSES MOUNT AS SECTOR STRUGGLES
retail jobs were lost in the final quarter of 2019 following the worst year on record for
retail sales growth. Figures from the British Retail Consortium show that the three-month period represented the 16th consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline, but the fall of 1.8% was well below the 2.8% recorded in the same period of 2018. An earlier report from the Centre for Retail Research showed that more than 140,000 jobs were lost in the 12 months of 2019, up from 117,000 in 2018, with 2020 forecast to bring further losses of 171,669 jobs and store closures estimated to reach 17,565. The CRR said the retail crisis was caused by “high costs, low profitability, and losing sales to online shopping.” Commenting on the BRC’s Q4 Retail Employment Monitor, Chief Executive of the organisation Helen Dickinson said there were many challenges for retailers in 2019: “Businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no-deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand. As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK’s largest private sector employer.”
“WORST YEAR ON RECORD FOR RETAIL,” SAYS BRC
igures released by the British Retail Consortium show 2019 to have been the worst year on record for retail sales with total sales for the twelve months down by 0.1%, compared with 1.2% growth in 2018. The year was also the first to show a wide-ranging decline in sales – this being reflected in the CVAs, shop closures and job losses the industry suffered in 2019. “It shouldn’t come Paul Kirkland, as a surprise to Director of Retail & retailers that total Hospitality at Fujitsu sales fell in 2019” UK, said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to retailers that total sales fell in 2019; from declining footfall as online competitors grow their market share, to the continued impact of the UK’s political and economic uncertainty, it was a particularly difficult consumer environment to navigate.” BRC’s Helen Dickinson elaborated: “Twice the UK faced the prospect of a no deal Brexit, as well as political instability that concluded in a December General Election, further weakening demand for the festive period.” “There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste. However, this takes resources, so it is essential the new Government makes good on its promise to review and then reform the broken business rates system which sees retail pay 25% of all business rates, while accounting for 5% of the economy.”
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AO CLOSES LOSS-MAKING NETHERLANDS OPERATION
World announced the closure of its lossmaking Netherlands operation as it reported Group operating losses of £10.6m for the six months ended 30 September 2019. John Roberts, AO Founder and Chief Executive Officer, said the move will enable the Group to concentrate on the transformation of its German business. Total Group revenue for the period
increased by 16.3% to £470.1m, up 3.2% on a like-for-like basis excluding revenues from the recently acquired AO Mobile. Total UK revenue rose 20.3% to £402.7m, up 4.5% on a like-for-like basis excluding Mobile. Revenue in Europe fell 3.4% to €75.7m as the European operating model was realigned with the company’s UK policy.
“These results were achieved during a period of significant change for the business where we were focused on laying the foundation for disciplined, long-term growth,” Roberts commented. “There are encouraging green shoots of profitable growth across our UK business, including within our core MDA offer and we will continue to invest to drive this further.
“Our relentless focus to accelerate profitability in Europe continues, and as part of this we have today announced the closure of our Netherlands operation. This will enable us to concentrate on the transformation of our German business, where we have increased confidence in, and visibility of, the three core drivers of the business model that will put us on the path to profitability.”
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE GETS “MINI BORIS-BOUNCE” C onsumer confidence gained an encouraging lift in January, marking two consecutive months of improvement. According to researcher GfK, public sentiment rose two points in the first month of 2020 with improvements in consumer assessments of their personal finances and the general UK
economy. Although still in negative territory, at -9, GfK said it expects a return to positive headline scores soon. Looking at the 12 months ahead, expectations for personal finances increased three points to +6, five points higher than January 2019, while those for the general economic situation increased three points to -24,
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
he John Lewis Partnership announced it will cease publication of its weekly sales figures and will no longer break down sales and operating profits between its two brands, John Lewis and Waitrose, making it difficult for those interested in the performance of the omni-channel department store chain John Lewis to gauge how this side of the business is performing. The move follows the firm’s decision announced in October last year to manage the operation of the two brands as a single business in a plan to break free from the “cycle of declining returns”. “The Future Partnership strategy,” the label given to the company’s new setup, “means we are now operating as one business and are therefore moving to a new financial reporting structure,” a JLP announcement released at the end of January said. Writing in the Business section of The Daily Telegraph, commentator
Ben Marlow was sceptical about the financial reporting change: “Apparently the new structure is the reason, not the fact that performance has been utterly dismal,” he said. “Expect to see flying pigs on the shelves in the coming weeks.” In a trading update for the 7-week Christmas period, released early January, sales at the Partnership fell 1.8% to £2,167m compared to last year – the outcome shedding doubt on whether the firm will pay its Partnership Bonus. Sales at John Lewis fell 2.3% on last year (down 2.0% on a like-forlike basis), with Electricals & Home Technology, down 4.0%, the worst affected. Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “In John Lewis & Partners we will reverse the losses incurred in the first half of the year, but profits will be substantially down on last year. We therefore expect that Partnership profit before exceptionals will be significantly lower than last year.”
which is 15 points higher than the same month last year. Joe Staton, Client Strategy Director at GfK, said: “The first month of 2020 has given us a mini Boris-bounce.” The only downward score was recorded by the Major Purchase Index, which Staton said reflected January’s “seasonal post-Christmas empty-wallet
DIXONS CARPHONE CHIEF CONFIDENT ON PROMISE FOR 2020
roup sales at Dixons Carphone fell 2% in the 10 weeks to 4th January, but the company said it is on track to deliver “what we promised for this year” after a good peak in a weak UK market. In its Peak Trading Statement, the business reported a strong performance in sales, market share and customer satisfaction. UK & Ireland Electricals like-for-like revenue grew 2% due to broad-based growth, with strength in TVs, Gaming, Smart Tech and Small Domestic Appliances, and online growth up 7%. International like-for-like revenue rose 3% with an increase of 3% in the Nordics and 6% in Greece. The region reported good growth in Domestic Appliances and Kitchens and a growing market leading position in the Nordics with Norway and Finland particularly strong. International online growth was up 5%.
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feeling”, while noting the further impact in the longer-term contraction and sluggishness experienced across the retail sector. “However,” he said, referring to consumer confidence on the whole, “if current trends continue we’d expect a return to positive headline scores soon.”
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UK & Ireland Mobile like-for-like revenue fell 9%, but the company said it was on track to launch a new mobile offer in H1 2020/21. Group Chief Executive Alex Baldock said: “We’ve had a good Peak in a weak UK market and we’re on track to deliver what we promised for this year and with our longer-term transformation. “Peak saw us continue to invest in our strategic initiatives with encouraging results. Credit and services adoption rates increased, online sales grew strongly, and our newly remodelled stores performed well. “Coupled with our unambiguous “You won’t get it cheaper. Full stop” price promise, alongside better availability and delivery, this led to big improvements in customer satisfaction and strong market share gains in Electricals.” The Group will publish its full year results on Thursday 25 June 2020.
COMEBACK PLANNED FOR TROUBLED GERMAN BRAND LOEWE?
WHIRLPOOL ADDS MORE MODELS TO WASHING MACHINE RECALL
nvestment company Skytec, which took over the LOEWE brand in December 2019 following the German manufacturer’s bankruptcy and closure of its Kronach operation in July last year, is to reposition LOEWE as an “international premium brand for sophisticated consumer electronics”, and will present its first products under new management at IFA 2020 in September this year. In a statement labelled “Skytec sets the course for the future”, the investment firm said: “After successful discussions with the city of Kronach, LOEWE now takes over 25,000 square metres at the traditional company headquarters and at the same time hires the first 45 employees to restart. “With these personnel, the construction of the new company headquarters in Kronach begins and from here the further expansion into international markets will be coordinated. With a view to retail, the new management is working hard to restore the supply chains so that from April 2020 onwards most of LOEWE’s well known LOEWE portfolio can be offered again, thus ensuring planning security for the partners. A team of initially nine experienced sales employees will start looking after existing and establishing new trading partnerships in February.” Skytec said it is receiving “extensive support” from suppliers and technology partners such as LG Display and other manufacturers of panels and key components. Support also comes from Chinese company Hisense, which also offered to take over the long-troubled German business. “After the takeover of LOEWE, we very quickly sought contact with suppliers and industrial partners and received extremely positive feedback and comprehensive support for our plans,” commented Vladislav Khabliev, CEO of Skytec. Aslan Khabliev, CEO of the newly founded LOEWE Technology GmbH, said: “We want to get started quickly with the development of new products at the traditional location in Kronach. Until these are ready for the market, we will continue to maintain most of the previously known portfolio in the TV segment and in other areas. “This means planning security for the trade. But end customers can also continue to rely on the LOEWE brand because the supply of spare parts is guaranteed. “Our goal is to reposition LOEWE as an international premium brand for sophisticated consumer electronics.”
Whirlpool has recalled a further three washing machine models identified as posing a fire risk, adding 5,000 more machines to the half-a-million recalled in December 2019. he new problems came to light following ongoing analysis and investigation by the company’s safety team and, as with the December recall, these machines were manufactured under the Hotpoint and Indesit brands between 2014 and 2018. Both recalls are due to safety concerns about the appliance door lock system. Whirlpool said the heating element when activated can in very rare cases cause a component in the door lock system to overheat which, depending on product features, can pose a risk of fire. The safety issue concerning the 500,000-plus washing machines puts more pressure on Whirlpool, as it follows a recall of thousands of tumble dryers in July this year after Government demands made a month earlier relating to machines that had not been modified under a long-running safety campaign involving Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline models identified as a fire risk some four years ago and still in the public domain.
Martyn Allen, Technical Director at Electrical Safety First, said: “Issuing a recall as Whirlpool has now done is the correct course of action when a potentially dangerous fault such as this is discovered.” But Sue Davies, Which? Strategic Policy Adviser, suggested the washing machine problem will leave the company’s reputation “in tatters” and accused the business of having “a track record for appearing to put corporate reputation ahead of public safety in its disgraceful handling of the unsafe tumble dryer crisis”. In response to the recall, Whirlpool said it is doubling its call centre team to 800 customer service agents; sharply increasing production at its five washing machine factories in the region to prioritise the manufacture of like-for-like replacement models; increasing its engineer workforce to 1,100 and providing specialist training on the in-home modification; engaging third-party logistics support to undertake collection of affected washing machines from people’s homes and delivery and installation of replacement appliances.
ESF CREATES “RECALL-READY” ALEXA APP
electrical products more safely.” onsumer protection charity Electrical Safety First Product recalls currently achieve a success rate has launched a “recall-ready” Alexa app to help of just 10-20%, leaving a large number of potentially reduce the number of electrical fires in UK homes. unsafe electrical items still in use and The move means consumers (using the presenting a significant risk of fire. requisite device) can now effortlessly Research by ESF indicates almost discover if they have a recalled 270 million unregistered electrical item, simply by telling electrical products are still in Alexa the item’s brand name. “Research by UK homes. Emma Drackford, Director ESF indicates Drackford said: “In 2017 of Communications at ESF, almost 5,000 fires were said: “We hope that by almost 270 million caused by faulty electrical launching the Alexa app unregistered appliances and leads, people will use it to make electrical products including recalled items – the ad-hoc checks while doing are still in UK equivalent of 13 fires per day chores around the house, homes.” across the UK.” without having to open a “We are committed to using website. It’s all about removing every advantage provided by new barriers and giving our audience technology to reduce this risk.” the tools they need to use their
FULL-YEAR OPERATING PROFIT DOWN 10% AT LG
Electronics announced preliminary earnings results for the fourth quarter and full-year of 2019, anticipating consolidated revenues of KRW 16.1 trillion in the quarter with an operating profit of KRW 98.6 billion. Total annual sales reached almost KRW 62.3 trillion, the highest annual sales in LG history, surpassing KRW 60 trillion for the third year in a row, with operating profit of KRW 2.4 trillion expected to be 10% lower than the previous year.
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Charmaine Warner, former Refrigeration Trade Marketing Manager for Hotpoint, Indesit and Whirlpool brands, has been appointed to the role of Brand Manager for Whirlpool.
The John Lewis Partnership has appointed Nina Bhatia as Executive Director, Strategy & Commercial Development. She will report to newly installed Chairman Sharon White as a member of the new Executive Team.
Gunjan Srivastava has been appointed CEO of BSH UK & Ireland, succeeding Andreas Meier, who in November last year announced he will be taking on the role of Executive Vice President, Head of Consumer Product Division, within the BSH Group.
Electrolux has promoted Luke Harding to the role of General Manager UK and Ireland, succeeding Peter Spencer who has been promoted to Vice President Services within the European business.
Accessories distributor Hama UK has appointed former Roberts Radio CEO Owen Watters to the role of Managing Director following the retirement of UK Country Manager Paul Irish.
Exertis has appointed Liz Greenwood as UK IT director, reporting to Richard Hinds, chief operating officer Exertis UK&I. Michelle Roberts has been appointed UK head of Health & Safety (H&S) and facilities management at the Basingstoke-based business.
Acoustic Energy has appointed Adrian Dykes to the role of UK Sales Manager for independent specialist retailers.
Appliance specialist Caple has appointed Adrian Pashley as business development manager (BDM) for the East Midlands region, including Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
Adrian Dykes Adrian Pashley
The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) has appointed Neil WhitakerJohnson as Regional Sales Manager for the Midlands.
Gloucestershire headquartered distributor D.A.D has appointed a National Contracts Manager in what is seen as a progressive move for the business. Stuart Garmston, who has over 30 years’ experience in the industry, takes on the role to sustain and grow the distributor’s contracts sector. Neil Whitaker-Johnson
BSH Hausgeräte GmbH has announced that Dr. Carla Kriwet will take over as CEO of the company, succeeding Uwe Raschke who, alongside his duties on the Robert Bosch Board of Management, has led BSH since July 2019.
The Professional division of German brand Miele has appointed Simon Venni as head of professional sales UK.
Simon Venni Dr. Carla Kriwet
THE LATEST ELECTRICAL GOODS INDUSTRY NEWS
Chord Electronics has restructured its senior executive team, promoting Manufacturing Director Matthew Bartlett to the position of Managing Director. Founder, owner and Chief Designer John Franks becomes Chairman of the business.
techUK’s Paul Hide has taken on the role of Chief Executive of the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA).
Valpak has made two major additions to its executive team: Ben Richardson, Head of Procurement, joins the Ben Richardson James Skidmore business from sister company Helistrat, and James Skidmore returns to the company after seven years, focusing on making Valpak’s data expertise and packaging knowledge more accessible to producers such as retailers and manufacturers.
Connected Distribution Ltd has appointed Mark Cheffins to the position of regional sales manager to head up business development across the southern region of the UK.
SHORTCUTS Consumer market research company Euromonitor International has named Haier the number one brand globally in major appliances in 2019. It is the 11th consecutive time the Qingdao headquartered Chinese firm has achieved the top spot, having held the position since 2009. Rangemaster has launched a consumer cash-back promotion offering up to £250 on a selection of range cookers and hoods, providing retailers with the opportunity to drive sales in the first quarter of 2020. KBB PR agency jmm PR has won the Best PR Campaign Award in the EK&BBusiness Awards for its National Quiet Day campaign on behalf of Whirlpool. Buying Group CIH has, under the Euronics brand, become the Lead Partner for the Saracens Mavericks 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague season. The brand will feature on the front and back of match dresses and training kit, and will become a regular courtside branding fixture at home games and in matchday programmes. Swedish brand Blueair is claiming the title of “first ever” air purification brand to be accredited with the Good Housekeeping Institute stamp of approval for its Classic and Blue Pure ranges of appliances. iFi Audio has appointed Armour Home as its official distribution partner for consumer retail in the UK.
Invision has appointed Robbie Russell as technical sales support specialist.
Online electricals retailer AO.com has announced the achievement of obtaining over 150,000 reviews on Trustpilot – one of only eight companies in the UK and the only electrical retailer to have done so.
Sarah Milton, former Head of Product at Channel 4, has joined Digital UK in the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer. Steve Gettings, former Director at Ofcom, joins the company in midMarch as Head of Strategy and Policy.
Hoover has gained Quiet Mark accreditation for its Telios Extra vacuum cleaner.
GOVERNMENT TO STRENGTHEN SECURITY OF INTERNETCONNECTED PRODUCTS New legislation to improve security standards of internet-connected household devices to protect tens of millions of product users has been announced by Digital Minister Matt Warman.
he sale of connected devices is rising fast, with research suggesting there will be 75 billion internet connected devices such as televisions, cameras, home assistants and their associated services in homes around the world by the end of 2025. Now, plans drawn up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will make sure all consumer smart devices sold in the UK adhere to the three security requirements for the Internet of Things: 1. All consumer internet-connected device passwords must be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting 2. Manufacturers of consumer IoT devices must provide a public point of contact so anyone can report a vulnerability and it will be acted on in a timely manner 3. Manufacturers of consumer IoT devices must explicitly state the minimum length of time for which the device will receive security updates at the point of sale, either in-store or online Mr Warman said the Government wants to make the UK the safest place to be online with pro-innovation regulation that breeds confidence in modern technology. “Our new law will hold firms manufacturing and selling internetconnected devices to account and stop hackers threatening people’s privacy and safety. “It will mean robust security standards are built in from the design stage and not bolted on as an afterthought.” The measures were developed in conjunction with the business industry and the National Cyber Security Centre and set a new standard for best practice requirements for companies that manufacture and sell consumer smart devices or products. The Government said it aims to deliver this legislation “as soon as possible”.
D.A.D OFFERS SOCIAL MEDIA TRAINING TO INDEPENDENTS
istributor D.A.D is offering a free social media training day to support independent retail customers in growing their businesses online. The course will be run by a local Social Media expert Kat Shayler of SharpFox Social (pictured) and tailored to requests from attendees. Customers will receive training on promoting and maximising their presence on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In and Pinterest. Product training and the opportunity to network will also be available during the day. The course will take place on Tuesday 3rd March at the distributor’s head offices in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. For further information: Zonnie.firstname.lastname@example.org
FOREIGN Office Minister and Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson visits ESSE Engineering Limited’s factory in Barnoldswick to see how the company is gearing up to meet new emissions requirements for wood burning stoves.
MIDWICH ENTERS US MARKET WITH STARIN ACQUISITION
distributor Midwich has announced the acquisition of US-based Starin Marketing Inc. for £35.7 million. The move represents a significant strategic investment by the Diss-based distributor to enter North America, the world’s largest AV market, and will also provide extended geographical support for Midwich’s global customers. The acquisition also provides a foundation for the Group’s plans for US expansion with the benefit of a well-established market position, experienced management team and large customer base. For the year ended 31 December 2019, Starin delivered unaudited revenue of $222.7m, gross profit of $29.6m and EBITDA of $6.1m.
CIH LAUNCHES SMARTCARE WARRANTY SCHEME
uying group CIH has introduced an extended warranty scheme created in partnership with RetraCare to offer better value and a range of “unique” benefits to its members. Smartcare, as the scheme is known, brings a package that will enable CIH members to offer warranties on the vast majority of products they sell, with the option of either a Silver or Gold Protection Plan. Steve Scogings, CIH Chairman, said: “Smartcare offers great advantages to CIH members that sets them apart from other retailers and it will be a big benefit in delivering more margin back to the shop floor.”
CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS FOR GDHA BRAND STOVES
ooking appliance brand Stoves, which was founded on Valentine’s Day, February 14th 1920, is marking its 100th anniversary this year with a programme of activity, the business has announced. Retailers will be supported with the launch of new products, a number of national promotions and with the brand’s biggest-ever media investment. The Stoves on Tour events will continue, with the hosting of celebrity chefs at dozens of food and drink events across the UK.
The brand will also undertake a number of regional and employee events, commencing with a visit to its Prescot site by local dignitaries including the Mayor of Knowsley, Councillor Jackie Harris, and a two-week period will be assigned to special lunch events for staff, each of which will be themed by decade. Stoves began life in Warrington as a manufacturer of gas heaters, before moving into the production of gas cookers. It relocated to the current manufacturing facility in Rainhill, Prescot in 1925. Commenting on its 100 years of manufacturing expertise and ability to adapt to changing demand, the business said: “Stoves has secured its place in British cooking and engineering history.”
THE CHANGING CONSUMER ELECTRONICS RETAIL LANDSCAPE Stephen Mears of research organisation Futuresource Consulting examines how the balance between vendor direct, multichannel and physical store retailing is changing, and how this will affect Consumer Electronics distribution in 2020
ccording to Futuresource’s latest Consumer Electronics Retail Distribution report, around 10% of all global CE shipments were shipped through the vendor direct channel (i.e. through the vendor’s own physical or digital retail structure). This is driven primarily by the USA, UK and China, three retail landscapes where vendors are keen to control the consumer’s engagement with their products, manage upgrade cycles and drive upsell opportunities. This method of retail has supported Apple’s success since 2001, with the brand growing a strong retail business which accounted for 31% of net sales in its 2018/19 financial year. While other vendors have had a physical footprint for far longer, using their stores to showroom their products and raise brand awareness, the ever-changing retail landscape is posing challenges to established vendors and retailers and forcing a rethink in strategy.
are able to directly experience a product before they purchase it, which becomes an increasingly important part of the shopper journey towards the more premium end of the market. Moreover, in-store assistants are able to create upsell opportunities, either through warranties, other devices or services. As the consumer ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) develops, and the ecosystem of connected devices in both personal and home electronics develops in line with the emergence of virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Google, in-store engagement presents retailers with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that the whole ecosystem is worth more than the sum of its parts. Finally, customer service more generally is a unique retailer advantage often only found in-store. Retailers are able to create environments where consumers can learn how to set up or best use their device (Apple’s Genius Bar is one example of this), as well as offering inhome consultation services such as is done by Best Buy.
Underlying this, of course, is the continuing competitive challenge between physical retailers and their online rivals, and the continuing emergence of multi-channel strategies as a USING THE IN-STORE means to combat e-commerce giants. The ADVANTAGES same Futuresource report highlights that 27% Demystifying technology and finding solutions of CE commerce flows through multi-channel bespoke to the customers’ needs are all things retail methods. This retail strategy has helped that in-store retail engagement can do well, and companies such as Best Buy survive and even it’s an advantage over pure-online retailers thrive in a retail landscape disrupted by that shouldn’t be squandered. While Amazon over the last decade or so, online retailers are continually while retailers that have failed developing algorithms and to adapt to the emergence services to negate their of e-commerce have “Consumers rely disadvantage and are struggled. on a host of checks able to leverage their The advantage that and balances before own vast competitive multi-channel retailers advantages in have over their puremaking a major purchase, price, logistics, and online counterparts such as product reviews, convenience, multiis threefold, all based word of mouth, social channel retailers are around the importance media influencers and equally expanding of their physical beyond.” their digital presence footprint. The first two to offer the best of both benefits centre around retail methods. To offset the ‘showrooming’ effect of the continuing threat of online a physical store. Consumers
retailers, multi-channel strategies need to centre on building a good customer profile both in-store and online, before improving their abilities to market to their customers in a bespoke fashion. Of course, a major concern here is that consumers leverage the best of both types of retail, with in-store engagement allowing them to receive expert service and advice before they then turn to online retailers for the best prices. Price matching mechanisms and promises may offset this somewhat, but there remains a general perception that online shopping is always cheaper, so multi-channel retailers need to find a clearer advantage elsewhere. The declining physical retail landscape does present a challenge for premium CE vendors, as it limits their ability to showroom their most premium devices and leverage the advantages
of in-store engagement. It is not, however, a wholly negative outlook. Consumers rely on a host of checks and balances before making a major purchase, such as product reviews, word of mouth, social media influencers and beyond. And, if the consumer does want to try before they buy, they can always go to their local Best Buy, Fnac Darty, Currys or other CE specialist stores. To counter the challenges of the modern retail landscape, CE companies can rely on and support their retail partners, especially those with an established multi-channel strategy. 2020 is expected to see CE retail continue to move towards pure-online and multi-channel retail methods, with vendors also increasingly leveraging a direct retail strategy to better control margins in mature markets. The continuing disruption to established retail is set to continue, and while it will continue to present challenges to vendors and retailers alike, it also presents opportunities to those willing to adapt.
Candy expands cooling range Candy has introduced six new 50/50, A+ fridge freezers with low frost technology, available in silver, white or black finishes. The fridge incorporates two adjustable glass shelves, a large salad crisper and three door balconies. The freezer has four transparent drawers. Three of the six new lines are equipped with a built-in water dispenser.
Aura Air launches in the UK
InSinkErator® adds to Showroom Collection InSinkErator® has added a new food waste disposal unit to its Showroom Collection, bringing the range of models available to three. The new E75 benefits from stainless steel grinding technology, a 980ml grind chamber and 0.75 horsepower motor. The compact unit is finished in black with a silver coloured trim and comes with a stainless steel sink stopper and cover.
Montpellier introduces new products in laundry and cooking Montpellier Appliances has introduced a range of eco-friendly cookers and a new 3kg compact vented tumble dryer. The dryer, model ref: MTD30P, has electronic control and five programmes including Sensor Dry with Timed Dry function. It is freestanding or wall mountable and weighs just 20kg.
Aura Air, which claims to be “the world’s smartest and most compact professional air purification and monitoring system”, combines the benefits of an Air Filter, a Carbon Monoxide and Fire/Smoke detector and is controlled by an app which compares real-time indoor conditions against outdoor air pollution via integration with the BreezoMeter air-quality app. The Aura app can be personalised to provide specific warnings for, for example, children, the elderly or asthma sufferers. The wallmounted unit measures 37.5 x 37.5 x 15cm and is powered by a standard mains plug.
020 8420 4234 | www.auraair.io
Leisure extends Cuisinemaster Pro collection Leisure has added to its Cuisinemaster Pro range cooker collection with a new 90cm model (PR90C530X) incorporating three ovens (one with grill) and a five-zone ceramic hob. True fan cooking promises a uniform bake, and an extensive range of cooking options enables users to produce a variety of dishes at any one time. The hob features a dual zone which can be extended to fit various pot/pan sizes while providing uniform heat distribution.
Caple adds cool touch to gunmetal collection Caple’s Wi3123GM single-zone wine cabinet with gunmetal finish holds 19 Bordeaux-style bottles on easy-slide beech shelves and incorporates the brand’s signature no-frost compressor cooling technology to provide a consistent temperature between 5°C and 18°C. It features adjustable UV/heat-free white LED lighting, a vibration-free fan, a toughened UVprotected glass door and operates at 43dB(A).
Denon launches all-in-one soundbar with virtual 3D sound Denon’s plug-and-play DHT-S216 soundbar delivers playback via two 3-inch down-firing subwoofers, two dual mid-range drivers and two 1-inch tweeters for a dynamic theatre-quality experience from a low-profile design. The unit features Pure Mode, which eliminates unnecessary surround processing for more precise and open sound. Listeners can pair their smartphone or tablet with the soundbar via Bluetooth to stream music with ease.
Siemens’ blackSteel side-by-side has the smarts Siemens’ American-style fridge freezer with blackSteel finish (KA92DHXFP) has a pair of high-performance networked cameras in the fridge compartment which operate when the door is closed. The images can be accessed via the Home Connect app so users can check the fridge contents at any time via phone or tablet. The appliance also features a multiAirflow System and hyperFresh Plus climate zones to keep fish, meat, fruit and vegetables fresh for longer, and dispenses filtered water, ice cubes and crushed ice.
Sustainability: threat or commercial opportunity? Get Connected has been writing for some years - with considerable interest and support from manufacturers - about the relevance to this industry of sustainability, “green” products, energy saving, conservation of resources and recycling. The (literally) burning issue of climate change is now huge in consumer consciousness, and our industry has the opportunity to offer advice and guidance to customers about how their choices of domestic appliances can help achieve the sustainable planet You have stolen my dreams… my childhood – HOW DARE YOU!” Teenager Greta Thunberg’s throaty growl and withering thousand-mile stare at last year’s UN Action Summit cut through the political noise to put world leaders on the naughty step and climate change back on the world’s agenda. National Treasure Sir David Attenborough, some eighty years her senior, showed his full support. And to sustain the pressure, Ms Thunberg turned up at this year’s Davos World Economic Forum to repeat the message – albeit in more measured terms – to the world’s rich and powerful, and again stole the media limelight from the big boys (no mean feat when the world’s most needy attention-seeker, Donald Trump, was there.)
This time, the gravitas of older-generation establishment support came from Prince Charles seeking the Thunberg photo opportunity. Meanwhile in the UK, Extinction Rebellion was disrupting road, rail and air transport, costing the Met Police millions and earning huge media coverage – though not always the total approval of commuters just trying to get to work. Sky Ocean Rescue’s campaign has succeeded in making plastic pollution a worldwide concern, forcing multiple retailers and commercial companies to consider publicly how they can reduce plastic usage. Finally, and not at all frivolously, Greggs announced a bonus for all its workers on the strength of profits from sales of its vegan sausage roll.
Caple Di651 dishwasher: part of the greening of washing up
AND YOUR POINT IS…? How is this relevant to our industry, and particularly to electrical retailers trying to make a living in a very hard world? You may believe climate change is an emergency we all need to address. Or you may think Greta Thunberg is a stroppy teenager who should stop shouting at grown-ups and go back to school; that Extinction Rebellion is a bunch of middle-class virtue-signallers smugly taking advantage of a benign system when, if they were in Russia or China, they would risk far more than a suspended sentence and the chance of losing a bit of skin off their superglued fingers. The point is, agree or not, concern for climate change and the planet’s health is now a very big thing indeed. It has huge public momentum and
Indesit Innex washer/dryer: washday is cleaner than ever in terms of sustainability
is beginning to force commercial enterprises to think, act upon and publicise their efforts to mitigate the damage they’re perceived to be doing. Those who don’t risk consumers turning away from them. Significantly, Greggs was able to monetise – and gain huge publicity from – the fact that veganism has broken out of its niche and into mainstream consciousness of the need for more sustainable food choices. And so, if nothing else, it makes commercial sense to acknowledge public opinion and find ways to make it work in your favour. If manufacturers and retailers have products to sell (such as domestic electrical appliances) that have an undeniable impact on the environment, then it’s a sensible commercial as well as environmental decision to mitigate that impact.
TELL THEM ABOUT IT We know, for example, that domestic appliance manufacturers have been working very hard, and investing substantially over the past decades to make sure their products minimise impact on the environment, from sourcing production materials, cutting energy and water consumption during manufacture, through more efficient performance during their lifetime, to end-of-life recyclability. Their successes are known to the trade, but not so much to the wider appliance-buying public. How many of your customers, for instance, have heard of Electrolux’s commitment as long ago as 2015 to making sustainability a core part of the business? Or Whirlpool’s recognition by Dow Jones for “longstanding commitment to sustainable business practices,” and the company’s recent practical support for LifeGate’s anti-plastic
pollution initiative? Or Beko parent Arçelik’s announcement at IFA 2019 that it would make its microfibre filtration system, which prevents microplastics from washing machines ending up in the sea, available to competitors? These are just a few examples, and in the past perhaps not the sexiest selling-points in-store. But anyone who switches on the TV or radio news, or picks up a newspaper, can see the narrative has changed, and if ever there was a time to be fully informed about what the brands you sell are doing, and to promote it to concerned customers, it’s now.
BETTER TOGETHER Manufacturers are stepping up to the sustainability challenge, and as their trading partners at the interface between industry and customer, retailers are a vital link in the communication chain. As Lee Collett, Channel Controller, KitchenAid, says: “Education is vital in order to consolidate and build on consumers’ eco-consciousness. There is awareness amongst consumers of the importance of sustainability. However, consumers don’t always act upon this awareness in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle, often because they don’t know the best and easiest ways to do so.” Anne Kaarlela, Marketing Communications Manager, Europe and Russia at tap and waste disposal manufacturer InSinkErator, agrees that “environmental issues, such as single-use plastic waste and food waste, are increasingly featured in the media to encourage consumers to make positive lifestyle changes that benefit the world we live in. We expect this important issue to have an effect on the kitchen industry in 2020 with manufacturers striving to offer products to
consumers that can help reduce their carbon footprint.” Catherine Balderson, Senior Hotpoint Brand Manager, reinforces the point: “It is the responsibility of both the manufacturer and retailer to educate and build on the consumer’s eco-consciousness,” adding that the company “encourages retailers to discuss with customers at the point of sale what exactly they are looking for in an appliance. This gives the independent retailer the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their expertise in explaining the technology and programmes now available that will suit the consumer’s individual needs. Showing and telling can help the customer to make a more informed decision and the attention and interaction provided will leave a lasting impression with the consumer.” Indesit Brand Manager Sara Bazeley, reflecting agreement among all the manufacturers we spoke to, adds: “Retailers should always take the time to explain the energy labelling system, and help the customer to compare models and brands, in order to demonstrate how much energy and water can be saved by choosing the most efficient model.”
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER If the industry agrees that teamwork between manufacturer and retailer is essential for success in the era of eco-consciousness, how are we achieving it? Most of the manufacturers GC spoke to run retailer training programmes, mostly product-based and focusing on the technology inside the machines. In just one example, Indesit’s Sara Bazeley outlines the brand’s training programme, saying it has “invested in the development of its E-Learning platform,
Hotpoint fridge/freezer. Cooling appliances are leading the energy and food conservation revolution
which enables retailers to be able to access training on various product categories, so they can fully understand the technologies inside the appliances and explain them to customers. In addition, Indesit also has a dedicated training team and regularly hosts trade partners at the company’s Showcase in Peterborough.” The training from all major brands is clearly there, but, as Bazeley emphasises, “it is imperative that retailers take up manufacturers’ training opportunities, so that they are in the best position to inform, educate, enthuse and engage every customer that comes through the door.”
THE SCORES ON THE DOORS Nobody can claim that technological advances – particularly in white goods – are anything less than huge, exciting and relevant. So there’s more to learn, and more questions to ask of customers to get the focus on what they care most about. But it’s a safe bet that, whatever the customer is interested in, there’s a very positive story to tell, and an increasingly important part of that story is sustainability. As Laura Jones, product manager at Smeg UK, succinctly puts it: “While style, design and ultimately price are key factors for individuals when choosing a new appliance, eco credentials have become increasingly important – especially if you are playing the long game as they are an investment that will help you see returns on your utility bills over a greater period of time.” The obvious place to start is with energy ratings. The legal requirement for standardised labelling on all appliances means there’s no hiding place, and direct comparisons can be made on the spot. Energy efficiency has advanced so much that the original A to G labelling system has been superseded by
be complicated, but, as KitchenAid’s Lee Collet simply puts it: “Induction hobs are growing in popularity, particularly as consumers begin to recognise their efficiency, compared to gas and ceramic hobs. Induction hobs heat the pans directly, through a magnetic field, meaning that energy isn’t being wasted around the edge of the pan.” If you have the in-store capability, a demonstration is usually a clincher with induction. Inside the oven, the programming efficiency, the cavity configurations and the “hybrid” cooking options can be equally bewildering, but focus on individual customer needs can reduce the complications. Steam, now better understood by consumers, is an up-and-coming oven option and benefits from the sustainability story. Caple product manager Luke Shipway put it in a nutshell: “Steam cooking is highly energy efficient as it cooks food faster and at lower temperatures than other methods of cooling. Also, because it’s odourless the cook can actually save energy by cooking different foods “The energy label simultaneously without has subsequently the different flavours become a symbol of mingling.” quality and efficiency products so much As the “always-on” and a purchase driver, better than the old “A” appliance, the fridge/ with sales of ‘A+++’ rated rating, and consumer freezer needs to be appliances surpassing choice is very much energy efficient, and sales of lesser rated moving into the added in 2020, it is. And along models.” categories of A+, A++ with the “A+” and beyond and A+++. As Hotpoint’s ratings, the technology inside Catherine Balderson – such as air flow and humidity says: “There is now a greater control, zoning for different appreciation amongst consumers of foods – addresses the huge problem how our actions can impact the environment of food waste by ensuring taste, freshness and and, as a result, there is an increased desire for nutritional value are preserved for far longer appliances that achieve the best results with the across a range of foods from fresh fruit and most efficient energy ratings. The energy label vegetables to meat, cheese and fish. £1 billion of has subsequently become a symbol of quality food ends up in bins every month, and that’s an and efficiency and a purchase driver, with sales environmental as well as a domestic disaster that of ‘A+++’ rated appliances surpassing sales of can be stopped. Most major manufacturers have lesser rated models.” developed technologies, and to avoid “tech Be prepared, however, for an imminent overload” it’s always worth focusing on specific change that may need some explaining to customer needs as these are explained. customers: just when they’re getting used CLEAN MACHINES to expecting a few “+” signs to indicate high In laundry, the emphasis is of course on efficiency, the powers that be now consider cleaning and garment care performance, but this is “confusing” to some consumers, so from along with it go water saving technology, 2021 in the UK, fridges, dishwashers, washing precise detergent dosing, reduced-temperature machines, TVs and lamps will go back to and eco programmes, direct drive and induction the simple A to G labelling (presumably with motors. The bottom line is they work better, they recalibration so the new “A” rating becomes save resources and they keep the household equivalent to the current “A+++”). bills down. EVERY ONE’S A WINNER It is good to see that the Cinderella of UK The positive story extends to all categories MDA, the dishwasher, has finally shaken off of domestic appliances, from heating and its undeserved reputation for profligate use of refrigeration to washing, cleaning and cooking, energy and resources. If any consumer in the each with its technological developments that UK still doesn’t know that a dishwasher uses enhance performance and sustainability. less energy, less water and less detergent than In cooking, perhaps the biggest advance washing up by hand, it’s our mission to convince is in the takeup of induction, making high them. “Dishwashers have never been so water performance, precisely controllable, clean, stylish and energy efficient as they are today,” says and energy-efficient hob cooking available Lee Collett. So the dishwasher is even more of a across most price points. The technology may sustainability no-brainer than ever.
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LA IN YE SP RS IR O AT F IO N
Go clever: BLANCO’s Smart Tap Collection BLANCO UK is entering a new era with an innovative collection of kitchen Smart Taps. The FONTAS-S II filter tap provides warm, cold and filtered cold water and has an integrated BWT multi-stage filter to purify, and to reduce limescale and heavy metal content. Saving time, energy and space, the new TAMPERA Hot 3-in-1 unit delivers cold, warm and instant 100°C boiling water from a hygienic 4-litre titanium boiler. The SOLENTA-S model offers a manual or hands-free Start-Stop mode, with unwanted activation prevented via near field sensor detection located in the hose arm. And delivering water via an intuitive touch sensor system, the new EVOL-S Volume tap features an integrated measuring function with precise rotary control to provide the exact water quantity needed.
01923 635 200 | www.blanco.co.uk
FIRE AND WATER Taps that can deliver hot, cold, boiling, filtered and sparkling water have seen an upsurge in popularity, and their benefits are manifold: more energy efficient than boiling a kettle, and an opportunity to dispense with one to free up space on the worktop; no more need for bottled water in single-use plastic bottles; more efficient overall use of water; a stylish statement piece in the kitchen; a convenient one-source appliance for a range of everyday kitchen needs. And for retailers looking to provide their customers with a “traditional” but eco-conscious focal point, the wood burning stove – the “wow factor” in many a TV property programme – is going greener. Stove manufacturer ESSE, for example, has been developing clean burn technology which meets and surpasses anticipated new clean air standards. “Emissions and air quality are much more important to customers today,” says ESSE, “and with the new Eco Design standard due to come into effect in less than two years, the efficiency and environmental performance of wood burning stoves is coming under greater scrutiny. The Government’s new Clean Air Strategy will introduce more stringent checks on woodburning stoves. There are no plans to ban the use of wood-burning stoves, but from 2022 onwards only the cleanest burning stoves will be permitted to be sold in Britain.”
SMART & SUSTAINABLE The advent of the smart home may also have a pivotal role in helping householders reduce their
data to assess the use of recycled polymers such as such as Polypropylene (PP), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polystyrene (PS) in the MDA sector, our experience indicates that uptake is far lower than would be expected given the significant financial savings and environmental benefits.” However, he adds that “the production of modern recycled polymers has changed dramatically. Not only are they now comparable in terms of quality to virgin oilbased products, but they also present users with a considerable cost saving. It’s also important to note that no modification of manufacturing equipment is required when offsetting virgin polymer for recycled, meaning there is no cost associated with the switch. “Long term availability is also no longer a restraining factor. In fact, materials are continually increasing as the waste and recycling sector continues to evolve and develop. Enva alone has recently invested £1.8m in order to double its output capacity to over 2000 tonnes of extruded compound per month. “Variations to recycled polymers are also now far easier and more economical. This could include the addition of elastomers to improve impact strength, additives to increase melt flow or fillers to make PP stronger and stiffer. A range of colours is also now available. In fact, it’s technically possible to produce any colour required by a customer.”
MARKETING BENEFITS carbon footprint. This is something on which most manufacturers agree, and the sustainability dimension is growing in importance. “There is no doubt that connectivity is the next step in many appliance categories,” asserts KitchenAid’s Lee Collet. And, for Charmaine Warner, brand manager at Whirlpool, “connected appliances hold the potential to take resource and economic savings to the next level. Through harnessing smart and connected technology, appliances can choose the best time to operate, and this, in turn, can allow for the integration of more re-usable energy into the running of our homes.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE While in-home efficiency and performance of appliances remains key to sustainabilityconscious consumers, manufacturers’ broader efforts to make the materials and processes of manufacture more sustainable are coming under consumer scrutiny. The BSI, for example, has recently referred to the “reputational impact” of a sustainability strategy. A brand that is – and is seen to be – “greener” in its end-to-end manufacturing philosophy and practices can win long-term allegiance from consumers. In this context, the environmental – and economic - benefit of recycling potential pollutants such as plastics into the manufacture of new domestic appliances is something all appliance manufacturers need to explore. But Steve Bell, general manager at UK & Ireland-based waste management, recycling and resource recovery business Enva Group told GC: “Whilst there is little in the way of published
Bell believes these environmental and economic benefits are augmented by powerful marketing potential. “For brands with the foresight to be early adopters of these high quality and valuable secondary resources,” he says, “there is a real opportunity to promote a high percentage of recycled plastic as part of their marketing strategy. The majority of consumers want to think that they are making decisions that benefit the environment, and by selecting an appliance that uses a high percentage of recycled plastic they can easily discharge this responsibility without any financial or practical impact on themselves. “The potential cost savings, the demands from customers for more sustainable products and the escalating cost of virgin polymers resulting from the increased scarcity of primary resources will undoubtedly see manufacturers increasing the amount of recycled materials they use in their products. This presents a real opportunity for those companies that are prepared to move early in order to differentiate themselves and build a competitive advantage.” Carrying this through to the retail environment, Bell envisions “improved POS information relating to recycled content, the resulting CO2e savings and the reduced pressure on the earth’s finite natural resources would be a very powerful and persuasive message for consumers, especially when it does not cost them any more money to make this ‘greener’ choice for them and their families. If you have two appliances with similar performance, and at a similar price point, why wouldn’t the consumer choose the more sustainable product?”
GEORGE COLE GETS CONNECTED GEORGE COLE PINPOINTS HOTSPOTS IN THE WORLD OF CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
AN UNRESOLVED RESOLUTION?
At this year’s CES 2020, 8K televisions took centre stage as companies such as Samsung, LG and Sony unveiled new ranges of 8K sets. But the push for 8K has also opened up a can of worms when it comes to standards. At least one company is stating that its sets offer “Real 8K,” implying that other 8K televisions are not the real deal
he argument comes down to standards and interpretation. The 8K Association has set out a list of criteria that defines whether a television is 8K or not. This includes the resolution (7680 x 4320 pixels), as well as specifications for luminance, type of codec, interface and other factors. If a TV set meets these criteria, it can be described as an 8K TV. The US Consumer Technology Association defines an 8K set as having 33 million or more active pixels, at least 7680 horizontally and 4320 vertically within a 16:9 viewable window. But not so fast, say some. They point to a decision made by the International Committee for Display Metrology (ICDM), an international group of scientists, engineers, researchers. The ICDM aims to develop an Information Display Measurements Standard (IDMS) for displays, which includes a new way of measuring resolution. Traditionally, screen resolution has
been defined by the number of pixels, but the ICDM states that this method is outdated. The argument goes that in the past, displays were composed of red, green and blue (RGB) pixels, but modern sets use an RGBW (for white) array, in order to increase the aperture ratio (the higher the ratio, the brighter the screen). This arrangement also affects contrast modulation (CM). Contrast modulation measures the ability to display a series of white and black patterns, each one pixel wide. The higher the CM percentage, the sharper the text and image. ICDM states that the CM should be at least 50% for both text and images. The argument from at least one manufacturer is that any so-called 8K TV set with a CM of less than 50% isn’t really an 8K set (no surprise that its sets offer a CM above the 50% threshold). It’s a headache for retailers trying to sell 8K sets and consumers interested in investing in the technology. Expect this controversy to run and run during 2020.
WHO NEEDS EYES? Those of us above a certain age will remember the days when colour televisions came with three control knobs for adjusting colour, brightness and contrast. By tweaking these controls, viewers could achieve the optimum image quality (or so the theory went). Nowadays, with AI, HDR and other features, TV sets can automatically adjust many parameters to get the best picture possible (so the marketing hype goes). Now, Panasonic has announced a new TV set, the HZ2000, which is said to be the world’s first TV set to support Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker Mode. Dolby Vision IQ uses a combination of HDR and built-in light sensors to measure the ambient light level of the room and tweak the image accordingly. It also uses dynamic metadata to analyse the TV content and, again, adjust the TV settings for the optimum image quality – so says Dolby. It makes you wonder if we need ever trust our own eyes again when it comes to getting the best image on our screens.
WALL OF WONDER
Also at CES, Samung was busily demonstrating what it claims will be the next big leap in television display technology – Micro LED. The company was showing Micro LED displays ranging in size from 50 inches to a whopping 292 inches. Micro LEDs would seem to offer the Holy Grail for TV displays. Unlike conventional LEDS, they don’t require a backlight, as they are self-illuminating; they don’t need LED shutters, and unlike OLED technology, there is no issue with burn-in. They are very power efficient and sets can be made very slim. The snag is their high production cost. But research company IHS Markit forecasts that production costs will fall, with sales of devices using Micro LED technology rising from less than 1000 in 2019 to 15.5 million by 2026. It sounds impressive, but as IHS Markit points out, this will still only account for less than 0.5% of the global TV market…
“Micro LEDs would seem to offer the Holy Grail for TV display.”
FROM THE BENCH
FROM THE BENCH
DUAL-LAYER TV SCREENS The latest form of LCD display is the best yet, says Alan Bennett
ince the demise of plasma TV screens in 2014 there have been two basic direct-view display technologies: LCD and OLED. Each has its pros and cons.
Megacon screen layers
RESTRICTIONS Both LCD and OLED displays can be made in large sizes and with very high definition. LCD is by far the most common type, used with an LED backlight. It gives the highest brightness levels, especially in the more expensive QLED and Quantum Dot forms. Its drawback is that even when its LCD light shutters are fully turned off there is slight leakage of illumination through them so that a true black cannot be achieved, though it can be reduced by ‘local’ and full-field dimming of the backlight. “Viewing OLED screens, because in high ambient each pixel is self-emissive, light requires a bright can achieve a true over its full area. In screen display, and to black: each diode can effect the inner layer fully exploit HDR (High be fully turned off. The produces the black drawback here is that and white (luminance) Dynamic Range) systems, they are unable to reach component of the good black level and to a very high brightness picture while the outer a high brightness level – driving them one provides the colour. capability are too hard reduces their It is very effective, but needed.” operational life. Viewing in expensive to produce. high ambient light requires a PANASONIC MEGACON bright screen display, and to fully Exhibited at IFA 2019 was Panasonic’s exploit HDR (High Dynamic Range) Megacon (Mega contrast) prototype, a 55 inch systems, good black level and a high brightness UHD screen with dual-layer technology. Both capability are needed. Micro-LED screens (see its LCD screen layers have UHD/4K definition our August 2019 edition, page 19) can achieve so that individual pixels can be blacked out both but are not yet available in economic or without any effect on adjacent ones. This is a mass-market form. huge advantage over even the ‘tightest’ local DUAL-LAYER LCD dimming systems, in which the limited number Dual- layer screens are based on LCD of LED backlight clusters causes whole bunches technology, in which polarised light is ‘twisted’ of pixels to be darkened. The Megacon has in a multi-point liquid crystal display panel so a claimed contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, with that it is blocked by a downstream polarising a maximum brightness of 1000 nits, the level filter working at right-angles to the first. It is not currently achieved by top-end conventional fully effective, and the brighter the backlight the LCD/LED screens with QLED and Quantum Dot more light leakage occurs. Dynamic local and technology. A wide angle of view is another overall dimming of the backlight – incorporated attribute, according to Panasonic. This screen, in more expensive models – helps, but is not as exhibited at IFA, is several centimetres thick, targeted tightly enough to completely eliminate and at present likely to find a role as a top-level light bleed and blooming effects in the image. A studio reference monitor at a price expected dual-layer screen has a second LCD array behind to be in the tens of thousands of pounds. It is the main one; their pixels are aligned so that what not yet envisaged for the home cinema market, little light escapes through a fully turned off rear but all such innovations have the potential to pixel is intercepted by the outer one, reducing appear there in the fullness of time; it will need the black level to virtually zero, comparable to to slim down, perhaps physically and certainly that of an OLED screen. The white LED backlight price-wise, even to become a niche model for can be very bright and uniform in intensity well-heeled movie enthusiasts in the future...
HISENSE U9E Also featured at IFA 2019 (and already launched in China) was the Hisense duallayer TV model, expected here this year at a price comparable with currently available high-end TVs. It’s not up to the standard of the Panasonic Megacon! This 65-incher has a UHD outer screen layer but the inner one is coarser at 1080p definition, providing one LCD lightblocking cell for each four pixels in the image. This does not impinge on the UHD resolution as viewed, but provides less tight targeting, so to speak, and hence a contrast ratio around 150,000:1, aided by a new low-reflection outer surface. It can, however, produce a peak brightness of almost 3000 nits. In terms of brightness, then, it is way ahead of all conventional TV screens and second only to the emerging Micro-LED type (August issue, page 19). This is more than adequate for all home cinema needs. In assimilating these brightness levels bear in mind that an LCDbased screen can achieve its peak level over the whole image area when required, while OLED ones can only manage their quoted top level over a smaller area of the picture. Dual-layer screens, especially of the sort developed by Panasonic, will be highly priced but our industry thrives on innovation: remember that when colour TV started, and again at the launch of thin-screen TVs the sets were unaffordable for most people. Now mass-production, competition between manufacturers and world-wide research, production, manufacture and marketing are driving prices down as never before, though not always to the advantage of the retailer...
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