The Magazine of The Electrical Goods Industry www.gcmagazine.co.uk
THE WORD GC looks at another month of highs and lows in the world of electricals
CONNECTED PLANET The GC team talks to Consumer Electronics and Major Domestic Appliances manufacturers investing in smart home technologies for the 21st century
stst 11 3131 stst
201919 Ju Julyly 20
The growing opportunity for retailers selling appliances that help alleviate the health hazards associated with pollutants in the home
GEORGE COLE GETS CONNECTED How secure are smart home devices? George Cole looks for answers
FROM THE BENCH Alan Bennett on the improvements making TV display panels increasingly sophisticated
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INSIDE... 04 Editorial Comment 06 The Word
In and around the industry
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George Cole Gets Connected
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The convenience offered by the proliferation of smart devices in the home can come at a cost – if you can access your smart devices while away from home, so can a hacker if the devices are not secure
Alan Bennett looks at advances in the optics and electronics of TV viewing screens and their drive engines
The Connected Planet With the connected home now encompassing not only TV and home entertainment, lighting, heating and home security but washing, cooling, cooking and refrigeration, the smart money is on the smart home market growing even faster over the next few years
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22 Clean Living
Concerns about indoor air quality and household allergens have increased exponentially in recent years as awareness and understanding of the threat they pose to consumer health has grown. This in turn has given rise to a growing requirement for air treatment and floorcare appliances which help alleviate the hazards associated with pollutants in the home
“Sad to say, this publication’s campaign (see last month’s Editorial Comment) to “Make Sir Philip a Billionaire Again” has got off to a slow start. We did get some contributions, but all were verbal rather than monetary, and for the most part unprintable”
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“These big beasts are not delivering longterm sustainability for the high street ecosystems you all inhabit.”
owever, it does seem that the egregious Greens at least have the support of the legal establishment, which apparently thinks it’s OK for Sir Philip’s Arcadia to use the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to reduce its shops’ rent liabilities by up to 50% while the group undergoes “restructuring.” And this in spite of the fact that this insolvency tool is only intended to be used when a business is close to bankruptcy. As Paul Suber, co-head of retail at property group Colliers International, succinctly told the Daily Telegraph recently: “CVAs should not be used as a tool for financial engineering and a way to walk away from freely entered-into legal contracts. Their use must only be a last resort.” Some may argue that Arcadia was already in “last resort” territory, with bankruptcy looming. But Sir Philip, even while negotiating CVAs, has vehemently denied suggestions that his empire is on the brink, and who would believe he is capable of “financial engineering” or “walking away” from financial obligations? Those who follow this publication will know that we have always decried financial mechanisms that allow easy adoption of the “drop debt, keep rich and carry on” attitude. And we are sorry if we now look as if we are going for easy targets, with “Green bashing” looking more and more like shooting fish in a barrel. But followers of GC Magazine will also know that we’ve always believed that retail – all of retail, not just the electrical retailers we write for, and about – is a total ecosystem that works in synergy, and what affects any part affects the
whole. So there is a reason to write yet again about what Sir Philip is doing to retail. And the reason is this: The “big beasts” of retail, who dictate so much of what happens in the business, are increasingly drawn from the self-interested individuals, the “turnaround specialists” and the private equity companies that are not really retailers at all, but opportunists with an eye to self-enrichment. What they do, and how they do it, affects every high street and every retailer, including the electrical retailers we write for. These big beasts are not delivering long-term sustainability for the high street ecosystems you all inhabit. The proof is that a Collier’s International report reveals that the use (some would say misuse) of CVAs has led to the closure of nearly 1,000 shops in the UK over the past two years. As a vehicle for renegotiating rents and “restructuring” (that is, closing stores), CVAs in retail have doubled in those two years, and the effect on the high street has been there for all to see. The loss of stores, boarded up shopfronts, that air of decay, has a profound debilitating effect on all traders, down to the independents fighting for footfall and sales. The lesson is that retail should be in the hands of retailers, not finance-based owners. Does this mean that, out of the ruins, the “real” retailers – those who know about the business, and care about their customers and their communities – will emerge as the ones that 21st century consumers want to do business with? There’s a long way to go yet, but independents should, if there is any justice, be the last retail businesses standing.
Marlinda Conway Editor in Chief
Terry Heath Editorial & Publishing Director
Will Dobson Creative Director
James McIntosh Consumer Consultant
George Cole Consumer Electronics Consultant
Designing the technology behind great cookers Visit the website for details on the full cooker range for 2019 or call sales on 01949 862010
RETAIL HEALTH HOVERS JUST ABOVE HISTORIC LOW THE LATEST ELECTRICAL GOODS INDUSTRY NEWS
SEASONAL LIFT FOR UK CONSUMER CONFIDENCE A sunnier consumer disposition during May brought a threemonth standstill in consumer confidence to an end, with a three-point uptick bringing the score to -10.
ccording to GfK’s monthly Consumer Confidence Index, four of the measures used to compile the data increased and one remained the same. Joe Staton, Client Strategy Director at GfK, said consumers had managed “a seasonal spring in their step.” Although the overall index score is still in negative territory, Staton remarked on the stronger positives on how consumers view their personal financial situation – a “key metric impacting day-to-day spending,” he said, adding that this was coupled with a less negative view of the general financial situation across the UK in the coming year. Staton also commented on the Government’s forecast of an economy showing modest growth, where inflation is under control, unemployment is at multi-decade lows and the employment rate is at a record level. “But before we see a leap back into the brighter positive numbers last seen in January 2016,” he cautioned, “consumers will need to be convinced in heart, head and wallet that Brexit’s murkiness has finally come to an end. And there are potentially dark clouds on the horizon with the next EU deadline of October 31st.”
A GREY DAY FOR RETAIL SALES R etail sales fell 3% on a like-for-like basis in May, delivering “a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing issues”. Total sales during the period dropped by 2.7%. The three-month averages show the total non-food sector declining by 1.1% and in-store sales falling 2.7%. The slowdown in overall non-food sales was mirrored online in May. Annual growth fell to its lowest on record as consumers held back on non-essential purchases. Sales for the month were up 1.5%. Paul Martin, UK Retail Partner at KPMG, said: “The extremely low growth online is
real cause for concern, especially with almost a third of all non-food sales today being made online. This trend has continued to manifest itself over the last year and requires real focus from the retail community.” Martin described the 3% fall in like-for-like sales during May as “staggering”, adding that it was “a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing issues, which for many require urgent attention.” BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said the result represented the biggest decline in retail sales on record. “The risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase,” she added.
Retail health deteriorated further in the first quarter of 2019 as wavering demand, an increasing squeeze on margins and everhigher costs resulted in a difficult trading environment for retailers.
ccording to the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank (RTT), the latest retail health index (RHI) score fell from 78 in the last quarter of 2018, to 77 in the first three months of 2019 – just one point above the historic low of 76 recorded during the double-dip recession of 2012/13. Alongside multiple references to the later timing of Easter, which fell outside of Q1 this year, the RTT also cited the uncertainty of Brexit as a key cause of ill-health during the first quarter of 2019. Maureen Hinton of Global Data said: “Major retailers have failed in recent months, and while that may in part be the fallout of a disappointing final quarter in 2018, we can’t overlook the fact that Brexit has added to consumer uncertainty, making shoppers more protective and selective of their discretionary spend.” James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, maintained that the softened demand retail experienced during the first quarter of the year nods to a peak in reservations around Brexit. “This has no doubt meant that margins came under increased pressure, just as retailers grappled with the Brexit-related inventory supply challenges and managing warehousing,” he said. Looking ahead to the second quarter, the RTT was a little more optimistic, pointing to the later occurrence of Easter, brighter weather, the delay of Brexit and subsequent impact on the consumer psyche. However, while the quarter holds more promise, it is predicted that retail health will remain static at best due to increased costs for retailers.
RETAIL FOOTFALL AT SIX-YEAR LOW
he UK experienced the worst footfall figures in six years in May (excluding Easter distortions), with declines in every region and across High Streets, Retail Parks and Shopping Centres. The data reflected the largest drop in retail sales on record. Shopper numbers declined by 3.5% compared to a fall of 0.4% in May last year. High Street footfall fell by 4.8%, while Retail Parks recorded a 0.8% decline. Shopping Centres also bore the brunt of May’s cooler weather and ongoing political and economic uncertainty as shopper numbers dropped 3.6% on last year.
£21M INVESTMENT FOR JOHN LEWIS & PARTNERS PETERBOROUGH
ohn Lewis & Partners has announced a £21 million investment and refurbishment of its 93,000 sq ft Peterborough store in the Queensgate shopping centre, due to be completed by January 2020. The refurbishment forms part of the £60 million extension of Queensgate which is due to be completed by Autumn 2021. The 77,000 sq ft expansion of the centre will be anchored by a ten-screen Empire Cinema and will create 200 job opportunities, increasing the number of people employed at the centre by 10%.
THE LATEST ELECTRICAL GOODS INDUSTRY NEWS
RICHER REWARD FOR LOYAL STAFF Julian Richer, founder and 100% owner of the highly successful Hi-Fi, TV and Home Cinema retail chain Richer Sounds, announced in May that he is handing over control of the business to his staff, transferring 60% of his shares into a trust owned by employees.
e is due to receive an initial £9.2 million from the company for his shares, but in a further acknowledgement of their contribution to the success of the business, he is giving £3.5 million of that back to them via a bonus of £1,000 for every year they have worked for Richer Sounds. The bonus, which is, said Mr Richer, “to thank loyal, hardworking colleagues,” will not include any of the company’s nine directors who earn “six-figure salaries.” Almost six years ago, as reported on GC’s website (20th November 2013), Mr Richer, who has no children, had already announced that he was bequeathing the company to his employees in his will to protect its unique culture. At the time he explained: “If I could find someone I felt would keep it going, I’d be more inclined to sell it. But then the worry is that I’d sell it and then someone might sell off all the freeholds or do something terrible to it that it would go bust in six months, ideas would look in the home. They will ohn Lewis & Partners is to trial and that’s my life’s work. So I’d rather leave a team in place.” also be able to change the colour of the a new virtual reality experience Mr Richer, who is just 60, explained that the decision to walls and floors to create a complete look. called ‘Visualise Your Space’ to make the changes now is because “I felt the time was right, Designs can be viewed either on an help customers with what can be rather than leaving it until I’m not around, to ensure the iPad, as a 3D room-set in augmented a difficult part of shopping for new transition goes smoothly and I can be part of it. I still really, reality, or via a virtual reality headset home products – deciding what they really care but it is time for the next generation.” which allows them to walk around the will look like in the home. His business philosophy, set out in his 2001 book The room. A copy of the design containing Customers, under the guidance of Richer Way, has been described as “unorthodox,” but appears shoppable links will be emailed to them. Partners, will be able to input the room to have built success on nurturing a happy, committed The trial will take place at John dimensions and placement of doors and workforce. He does not use zero-hours contracts, the Lewis & Partners stores in Kingston, windows into an iPad via an app, then company’s pay gap actually favours women, employees have Cambridge and Horsham. drop in the products to see how their access to company holiday homes around the world, and 15% of profits are donated to charities. It appears Mr Richer believes employee ownership is the best way to protect the company from outside aggressive takeover activity, and that the business is safer in the hands of its staff. “They know the business, and especially our rather unusual culture, extremely well,” he said, “and the business is therefore far more likely to flourish under their own steam nline retailer AO World announced adjusted EBITDA losses of £0.4m for the year because of this. I feel an incredible ended 31st March 2019, down from a loss of £3.4m in the previous year. loyalty to my hardworking UK adjusted EBITDA improved by 20.9% to £27.4m, up 14.3% on a like-for-like basis, colleagues and they should excluding EBITDA from Mobile Phones Direct, which became part of the Group last year. receive any benefit from EBITDA losses in Europe increased from €29.6m in 2018 to €31.3m, reflecting less running the business once progress than the business expected on product margins and cost pressures from “It appears my time is up as opposed reconfiguring driver scheduling arrangements in Germany. Mr Richer believes to just selling to the The Group posted an operating loss of £15.2m, against a loss of £16.2m in employee ownership is highest bidder.” 2018, reflecting an increase in UK operating profit of 28.4% to £14.9m, which the best way to protect Mr Richer will remain was offset by trading losses of £30.1m in Europe, up from £27.8m last year. the company from outside as MD “for the time The company reported continued revenue growth in both the UK and aggressive takeover being,” and day-toEurope with the total for the period increasing by 13.3% to £902.5m against a activity, and that the day operations will backdrop of ongoing weak consumer confidence in a continuingly competitive bu siness is safer in the continue to be run by his market, particularly in the UK. hands of its staff.” designated successor and Total UK revenue rose 10.1% to £749.3m, up 5.7% on a like-for-like basis current chief executive excluding revenues from the newly acquired mobile phones business. Julie Abraham. Revenue in Europe increased by 32.2% on a constant currency basis to €173.3m.
JOHN LEWIS TO TRIAL VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERIENCE IN-STORE
AO NARROWS FULL-YEAR LOSSES DESPITE TOUGH UK TRADING ENVIRONMENT
F. Donald Forbes & Co, which has a consumer arm trading as Forbes Rentals and a commercial arm trading as Forbes Professional, has announced the promotion of Kevin Herring to CEO of the company.
Swift Electrical has appointed Gary Davey as Area Sales Manager for the South of England.
EPE International Ltd has appointed Clive M J Barstow (pictured with EPE MD Noel Pamment and Non-Exec Director Paul Beaumont) as Sales Director. Mark Fox, who has served at EPE as General Sales Manager for 14 months, has been promoted to Head of Business Development.
ROBERTS RADIO CEO SEEKS NEW OPPORTUNITIES
R Owen Watters
oberts Radio CEO Owen Watters has left the business “for new opportunities” the company has announced. Watters had been with the Glen Dimplex-owned business, which claims to hold the No.1 position in the radio market, for 14 years. Robin Van Rozen, CEO of Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances, who steps in as interim CEO, commented: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Owen for his committed and loyal service to the business and wish him much success for the future.”
SHORTCUTS Connected Distribution has been appointed distributor for US-based CI loudspeaker and accessories brand Heritage Acoustics with responsibility for sales in Europe. CE distributor Aqipa has extended its relationship with digital radio company Pure International Ltd and is now responsible for all European sales, channel marketing and distribution activity for the Pure digital radio brand. Hughes Trade has been appointed a subdistributor by Californian electronics firm Sonos. The retailer will supply the entire range of Sonos products to installers, businesses and large organisations.
Hotpoint is offering purchasers of selected washer dryer models a free six-month supply of either Ariel Washing Liquid or 3in1 PODs in a promotion running until 31st August 2019. A second campaign by the brand offers a Sistema container set with the purchase of selected freestanding microwave ovens until 17th July 2019.
Whirlpool UK Appliances has been nominated in the Business Excellence Award category at the Motor Transport Awards 2019.
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1.8-MILLION DOLLAR LADY APPOINTED CHAIRMAN OF JOHN LEWIS PARTNERSHIP
he John Lewis Partnership has appointed Sharon White, Chief Executive of the UK’s communications services regulator Ofcom, to succeed Sir Charlie Mayfield when he steps down early in 2020. White comes to the role with a hefty set of credentials on an equally hefty basic salary of £990,000. Prior to joining Ofcom, she was Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, responsible for overseeing the public finances, and previously held Board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development. She has also worked as an adviser at the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank. Sir Charlie Mayfield, who described White as “an inspirational leader”, joined the John Lewis Partnership in March 2000 and became its fifth Chairman in March 2007. In November 2018, he announced his intention to step down from the role. Commenting on the appointment, he said: “I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice. But these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company.”
THE LATEST ELECTRICAL GOODS INDUSTRY NEWS
WHIRLPOOL GIVEN TEN DAYS TO RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT’S PRODUCT RECALL WARNING In a Government move which has been described by business minister Kelly Tolhurst as “unprecedented action,” the Government has written to Whirlpool saying it will require the manufacturer to recall all unmodified Hotpoint, Creda, Indesit, Proline and Swan tumble dryers involved in the fire safety warning first issued by Whirlpool some four years ago.
is estimated that, of the 5.3 million dryers sold in the UK, up to half a million could still be in use. The fault, which may allow lint and fluff to come into contact with the heating element and catch fire, has been blamed for “at least” 750 fires over eleven years, according to Government sources. Whirlpool has been working to inform consumers and to perform a modification on the affected dryers, but in an exchange during “Topical Questions” in the Commons on June 11th – shortly before GC went to press with this issue – it emerged that the Government had begun a process to require Whirlpool to recall all faulty dryers. The question and answer, as reported in Hansard, were as follows: Conservative minister Andrew Griffiths: “The Office for Product Safety and Standards undertook a thorough review of the modification of Whirlpool tumble dryers. However, there still remain great concerns about not only the straightness of Whirlpool, but whether people have unsafe products in their homes. Can the Minister update us on what is happening in relation to Whirlpool?” The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kelly Tolhurst): “I recognise the key role that my hon. Friend played in instigating the review when he was in post. Consumer safety is a Government priority and I assure him that we have kept Whirlpool’s action under review. I can tell the House that we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as the next step of the regulatory process. This is unprecedented action.” Whirlpool was given ten days in which to respond to the Government, and several choices of action, including instigation of a voluntary recall or a request for review by an independent arbitrator. The company said in a statement issued by Whirlpool Corporation through a spokesperson: “Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified. “To this end, we are in ongoing discussions with the Office for Product Safety and Standards to agree additional measures we have proposed to reach consumers
who have not yet engaged with this safety programme. “We have co-operated with OPSS throughout its recent review of the programme and welcome its findings that consumers whose tumble dryers have been modified can continue to use them safely. “The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905.
“Whirlpool was given ten days in which to respond to the Government, and several choices of action, including instigation of a voluntary recall or a request for review by an independent arbitrator.”
“In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.” London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly said: “The Brigade welcomes the news that a recall notice is to be issued for up to 500,000 Whirlpool tumble dryers which pose a fire safety risk. “We first asked Whirlpool to change its advice to consumers more than three years ago so we are pleased the Government has now stepped in to ensure potentially dangerous white goods are urgently removed from people’s homes. “Our Total Recalls campaign has led the way in championing the call to make white goods safer by reducing the risk of fire and trying to improve both the information that is made available and level of transparency on safety matters for the consumer.” See www.gcmagazine.co.uk for further progress on this topic as it happens.
FIREFIGHTERS ISSUE ANOTHER WARNING AFTER BANK HOLIDAY APPLIANCE AND DEVICE FIRES
reater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has urged people to be cautious when it comes to electrical devices and to regularly monitor appliances to minimise the risk of house fires, following five incidents over the Bank Holiday weekend at the close of May. The warning is one of many recently issued by Fire Services around the country concerned with fires caused by household electrical goods. On Saturday 25th May, crews attended a fire caused by a tumble dryer which was used unsupervised. One person was treated by North West Ambulance Service after suffering the effects of smoke inhalation. On Sunday 26th May, crews attended another incident involving an unmonitored tumble dryer in which one person was treated by North West Ambulance Service. On the same day, crews attended a fire caused by a vacuum cleaner left on charge. On Monday 27th May, crews were called to a fire involving a washing machine, and another caused by a laptop charger which overheated on a sofa when left unsupervised. “Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured in these incidents but it is a timely reminder of how dangerous electrical appliances can be when left unattended,” said Damian O’Rourke, Head of Prevention at GMFRS.
DENON PARENT TO ACQUIRE ONKYO CORPORATION CONSUMER AUDIO DIVISION
ound United, which acquired the D+M Group – owner of the Denon, HEOS by Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics brands – in 2017, is looking to expand its portfolio yet again with the acquisition of Onkyo Corporation’s
consumer audio division, which includes the Onkyo, Pioneer, Pioneer Elite and Integra brands. Sound United said Onkyo Corporation will retain the rights to the Pioneer and Onkyo brands for the purposes of their Digital Life and
Embedded Audio businesses. Sound United will acquire all worldwide third-party distribution agreements under which the premium audio products are currently sold. A statement released by the firms said the preliminary
WHIRLPOOL BACKS ANTI-PLASTIC POLLUTION INITIATIVE
AMAZON REACHES THE TOP IN VALUE BRAND STATUS, BUT WILL IT GIVE A TOSS?
hirlpool Corporation has announced its support to reduce plastic pollution around the coastline of Britain, with the installation of a Seabin at Portishead Quays Marina, north Somerset. The 4th June 2019 marked the launch of the campaign here in the UK, which in partnership with LifeGate PlasticLess® aims to roll out a number of Seabins around the coast. Whirlpool Corporation has committed to working with LifeGate in Europe and has already installed Seabins around Italy.
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mazon has ousted Google to become the world’s most valuable brand in the 2019 BrandZTM Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking released by “creative transformation agency” WPP and research company Kantar. Amazon has now moved ahead of Apple, which retained its No.2 position, and Google, which fell from first to third position, ending the 12-year dominance of technology companies, which have led BrandZ’s Top 100 since its introduction in 2006.
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But Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, suggests Amazon won’t give a fiddle about its new status. “While this news is interesting, brand recognition is of little interest to Amazon; its prime focus is commercial strength and profit. So, unless this ranking makes Amazon more money, it’s unlikely to be heralded as anything other than the by-product of great service by the Seattle HQ.”
EXERTIS EXPANDS CE AND SDA OFFERINGS IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE THROUGH TWO ACQUISITIONS
CC Technology, which trades as Exertis, has announced its intention to acquire COMM-TEC GmbH, a leading supplier of Pro AV solutions to resellers and systems integrators across Europe, and Amacom, a leading supplier of consumer electronics and small domestic appliances to retail, etail and B2B resellers. Both acquisitions will expand the Exertis business in Continental Europe. COMM-TEC is headquartered east of Stuttgart and generated over €90 million in revenue in its last financial year. It employs over 150 staff across Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Spain and has sales operations in Eastern Europe. Amacom is located in Den Bosch in the south of the Netherlands and employs around eighty staff with revenues of €160 million in the last financial year.
ARÇELIK CEO CLIMBS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
agreement will enable both companies to quickly proceed with negotiations of definitive terms and agreements. Sound United CEO Kevin Duffy will become CEO of the newly combined businesses. Sound United is a subsidiary of DEI Holdings, a portfolio company of Boston-based private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners, LLC.
eko parent Arçelik’s CEO Hakan Bulgurlu faced the challenge of climbing Mount Everest as part of a wider business aim to raise awareness of climate change and the 21-year window to reverse its effects. The CEO reached an 8,848m summit on 23rd May after a 26-day trek.
THE LATEST ELECTRICAL GOODS INDUSTRY NEWS
Retail Word from the Street Gloomy retail news is still emanating from UK High Streets, and various retail “experts” and campaigns have failed to find the single magic formula to “save the High Street.” So Get Connected, in association with Big Red Sales founder John Reddington, put together a panel of real “experts” – people who shop – and asked them what’s wrong and what’s right about 21st century retail in the UK
take a holistic approach to retail: what happens to any outlet in a high street ecosystem affects the entire location; and retailers can always learn from their successful neighbours. Hence the panel is an intergenerational group of working people with very broad experience of shopping over many decades, from the biggest of chains to the smallest of indies, from underwear to hi-tech electronics, online and bricks-and-mortar, north and south of the UK and overseas. The fact that they are all women is not entirely an accident. Apart from the fact that women take responsibility for so many more buying decisions, including, increasingly, cars, CE and MDA, they seem more likely to engage with – and talk about – the experience as well as the product, have more attention to retail detail, and are less reticent about the importance of the emotional, person-to-person element of shopping. We began by discussing the plight of the chains that used to be the heart of our high streets: BHS, Debenhams, HMV, M&S, and Currys poor halfyear performance, and shared some
personal poor service experiences. What are these once-thriving big stores getting wrong? Jo Giggs: “Stores like Currys just don’t have the helpful staff any more.” Chris Reddington: “They seem not to have the basic training in products or customer service.” Denise Coup: “Yes. Shops used to have specialists in their departments, but when pay’s poor, you don’t get committed staff. They’re just nine-tofive and not really enthusiastic about the job.” Sarah Nkoski: “Retail is not seen as a career here. It’s a last resort for careers advisers in schools, for example. ‘You don’t seem to have much aptitude. You’d better go and work in a shop.’ In the US, say, it’s a valued career and people want to do well at it.” Jo: “When times are good they should be investing in training, but don’t. When times are bad and the training would pay off, they can’t afford it.” Sarah: “They’re not going to invest in people if they get them cheap, and there’s no incentive to stay.”
The shopping panel (l to r): Chris Reddington, Jo Giggs, Sharon Maslen, Sarah Nkoski, Denise Coup
Sharon Maslen: “Going into Currys, even the ‘experts’ they advertise don’t inspire much confidence, and the impression is they want to avoid customers.” Chris: “There are exceptions. HMV staff were always helpful and knew their stuff. But HMV was overtaken by online music buying and streaming, and that’s a different problem. The Apple Store is very good. Focused, friendly and expert staff, properly trained on products and customer relations.” Denise: “But M&S used to be better. All I can find now is underwear. It’s stuck in between ‘trendy’ and ‘old fashioned.’ They don’t seem to know their customers any more. It’s a bit like going into a supermarket.” Chris: “They don’t understand that ‘mature’ is not the same as ‘frumpy’, and the 18-year-olds they’re trying to attract don’t go there anyway.” Jo: “It’s the older people who have the money, but ‘older’ is very different to what it used to be.” The panel is clearly identifying a problem we’ve known about for a long
time, but have allowed to deteriorate: retail is held in low esteem as a career in the UK from the start of education. It’s seen as a temporary occupation, it’s low-paid, and hence the quality of staff and their limited expectations don’t warrant, among the “bean counters” who run big retail, any investment in training. It is good to be reminded, from time to time, of how much this impacts the shopping experience, and ultimately the bottom line. John Reddington, who has been talking to retail buyers for most of his career, interjected here to pick up the point about M&S losing touch with its customers, and to identify something else the “bean counters” get wrong: JR: “Even John Lewis is not the store it was. The buying office recruited ‘young’ blood from outside the business, and its character changed. The mentality of buyers changed from product-centred to price-centred. The humanity, the courtesy and understanding are gone. Buyers can’t really buy any more either. They’re just the messengers of the hierarchy.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next issue the panel looks at their online shopping, how much they shop with independents, and how the “experience” of a day devoted to shopping has changed.
COOKER HOODS LESS ENERGY, LOWER BILLS
A Range of Possibilities with Montpellier Our wide selection of Range Cookers offer you the ability to create your perfect kitchen. With both Gas and Electric options, and varying sizes and colours - there’s so many
possibilities for you to choose the Range Cooker that’s perfect for you. Visit our website or scan the QR code to see the full selection.
Order today by contacting our sales team or via our webshop: T: 03333 234 473 | E: email@example.com www.montpellier-appliances.com © Copyright of Montpellier Domestic Appliances Limited 2019. All rights reserved. E&OE. Models: Electric Range Cooker: RMC61CC | Cooker Hood: MH600BK
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© Copyright of Domestic Appliance Distributors Limited. All rights reserved. All details in this booklet are correct at the time of going to print, D.A.D reserve the right to amend prices and products without prior notice. All images are for illustration purposes only and may occasionally differ from the actual product. E&OE.
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Domestic Appliance Distributors
© Copyright of Domestic Appliance Distributors Limited. All rights reserved. All details in this booklet are correct at the time of going to print, D.A.D reserve the right to amend prices and products without prior notice. All images are for illustration purposes only and may occasionally differ from the actual product. E&OE.
Smeg adds new 4-door fridge freezer to cooling collection Smeg’s latest 4-door fridge freezer, the A++ FQ60X2PEAI, has a 626-litre gross capacity including an 83-litre Multizone compartment which can be used as either a fridge or freezer. It has two separate cooling systems and incorporates the brand’s natural BLU light technology to keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer. Operating noise level 43 dB(A).
Pure’s first smart speaker offers enhanced privacy Digital radio brand Pure has launched its first smart speaker billing it “a smarter speaker with privacy and discovery at its heart”. The DiscovR, a portable Alexa-enabled device with X-SPAN design, disconnects the microphones when the speaker is closed to provide enhanced privacy and can also be operated via touch-sensitive controls. Its portable form and 15-hour battery life mean users can enjoy 360° sound anywhere.
AIRUNO adds Elektra model to downdraft extractor range AIRUNO’s new downdraft extractor is available in black glass or stainless steel and in 90cm and 120cm versions, with both options featuring a full-length LED strip light to illuminate the cooking area. The Elektra has a maximum extraction rate of 730 m3/h and operates at a noise level of 42-66dB(A). Remote and external motors which reduce the noise level further are also available. Its four speed settings and retracting mechanism can be operated via remote control.
TEAC unveils TN-4D analogue turntable TEAC has introduced a turntable employing a new ultra-stable direct-drive motor and SAEC-designed knife-edge tonearm bearings. The TN-4D is an analogue model with low profile design. It incorporates a brushless DC servo motor with feedback control system which achieves crystal-locked speed stability and smoother rotation, while also eliminating cogging. The unit is available in June 2019.
Whirlpool’s first connected dishwasher Whirlpool’s W Collection SupremeClean dishwasher (WFF 4033 DLTG) is the brand’s first connected model in the dishwashing category. The appliance features a smart display (MySmart) controlled by Whirlpool’s 6TH SENSE Live® technology, which allows remote control of settings via the brand’s 6TH SENSE Live® app. It accommodates 14 place settings while providing an additional 30% extra space due to ExtraSpace design which allows vertical loading of pots and pans in the lower rack and making room for 10 extra dishes.
Kitsound introduces Diggit XL indoor/outdoor speaker KitSound has brought a bigger, more powerful Diggit Bluetooth outdoor/indoor speaker to market, building on the popularity of the original model. The Diggit XL offers the same design and tactile bamboo finish as the original, but with an enhanced 16W performance and additional features. The unit has a 24-hour playtime, improved IP66 weatherproof resistance and an LED downlight. Users can wirelessly connect as many Diggits as needed via Bluetooth.
New family of fans from Meaco Air treatment firm Meaco has added two oscillating cooling fans to its collection to create a family of units to suit all room sizes. The MeacoFan 650 and the MeacoFan 360 are small, lightweight versions intended for home or office use and are low on energy consumption and noise levels, partly due to advanced DC technology, making them suitable for use in bedrooms. Both hold QuietMark accreditation.
Rangemaster fridge freezer offers vacuum-seal technology Rangemaster’s new 2019 SXS DELUXE fridge freezer incorporates a Vseal™ feature which vacuum-seals food in a plastic bag to keep it fresher for longer, with the added benefit of it being immediately ready for sous vide cooking. The four-door appliance also features COOLPAC™, a removable chiller caddy for drinks, and an air-tight Odour Seal Box™ for strong-smelling foodstuffs. The appliance is available in Black, Ivory, Stainless Steel and Dark Inox.
GEORGE COLE GETS CONNECTED GEORGE COLE PINPOINTS HOTSPOTS IN THE WORLD OF CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
SMARTER REGULATION FOR THE SMART HOME? How secure are smart home devices? The answer from the government seems to be: not enough. In May, it announced a five-week consultation on whether new regulations should be introduced to increase smart home security.
ore and more homes now have smart TVs, smart speakers, smart thermostats and smart security systems, such as CCTV cameras that stream live footage to a smartphone. But all this convenience comes at a cost: if you can access your smart devices while away from home, so can a hacker if the devices are not secure. The suggestions are that new regulations would require smart devices to have mandatory labelling informing consumers on how secure they are. There should also be stronger security features built into smart devices, such as unique passwords rather than universal ones, and a minimum length of time for when security updates are offered for a product. In April, the government announced that owners of smart speakers can search for around 12,000 pieces of government information using voice commands. Ask your smart speaker: “How do I apply for a passport” and it will find the
answer. There is talk of smart speakers being used for services such as renewing your car tax, so it’s easy to see how smart home technology is going to play an even bigger role in our lives – hence the drive for greater security.
WHAT THE MAKERS SAY Security was one of the issues I brought up with the companies interviewed for this month’s feature on Smart Homes. Pure’s first smart home product is the DiscovR smart speaker, and George Tennet, Pure global sales director, says: “If manufacturers want to earn the trust of consumers, they need to have their best interests at heart when it comes to security. That’s why Pure has put such a strong focus on the DiscovR’s Mic Drop feature. Mic Drop uses the speaker’s exclusive X-SPAN compressing design that, when closed, physically disconnects the microphones for enhanced privacy. This was an important consideration for us, as we understand the need to mitigate any concerns
the consumer may have regarding security. Instead of being reactive to potential concerns around privacy, this product should give customers complete peace of mind from the point of purchase.” Stuart Mayo, head of marketing strategy, SmartThings, Samsung Electronics UK, says: “Security is at the top of our minds when it comes to our connected devices, and we do everything we can to ensure that the security and privacy of our consumers is protected. Samsung have incorporated multiple layers of security and are a leading member of the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) who we work with actively to raise the standards of security across Smart Home products. We also work with other OCF members to develop standards which enable interoperability between brands and devices, even if they come from different industries. We do this to give consumers confidence that their new smart home is not only open and accessible today, but that it stays that way for years to come.” Carolyn Anderson, LG Electronics UK marketing director, says: “The issue of privacy and security is a critical factor for manufacturers when introducing new products and technologies. With smart home appliances becoming even smarter, LG considers it paramount that its products and software are highly secure. We also cooperate with appropriate companies when necessary to ensure the protection of our customer’s data and privacy.”
WHAT CAN RETAILERS DO? I’m always a bit sceptical whenever such government consultations are announced, because they often come with some spin (we are told that one idea is that retailers would be banned from selling insecure devices, but don’t hold your breath). Nevertheless, it’s good to see the issue of security being given such a high profile and anything that encourages manufacturers, retailers and consumers to up their game has to be good thing. Retailers can help consumers make their smart devices more secure with some simple advice, such as changing the default password that comes with the device (it’s surprising how many people never bother); choosing a strong password and disabling any features they don’t require. And last but not least, always downloading and installing any security updates or patches.
FROM THE BENCH
FROM THE BENCH
TV SCREEN TECHNOLOGY 2019 Improvements in TV display panels continue to be made. Alan Bennett reviews recent progress
ately there have been advances in the optics and electronics of TV viewing screens and their drive engines. Today’s products are increasingly sophisticated.
OVERVIEW UHD/4K screens have quickly become the norm in screen sizes from 40 inches upwards, while 8K types are being pushed by some setmakers, for instance Samsung and Sony. Others, e.g. Philips, are less keen. There continues to be a dearth of 8K content, and it cannot be denied that 8K viewing involves huge amounts of bandwidth and data-storage capacity. This, along with the need for a very large screen to do justice to 8K image detail, is suppressing sales in this category at present; in the short-term future at least it seems that refinement of UHD screens will be at the forefront of development. Even so, 8K models are coming increasingly to market: 200,000 sales are expected worldwide this year, forecast to swell to 1.5m within three years. Today the most popular types are probably 55-inch UHD models; they sell over a wide price range. Towards the top of this some manufacturers are offering very bright (1000 nit+) screens with excellent HDR performance. In HDR both Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ take-up has been slow amongst manufacturers, perhaps because of the Dolby royalty and the lack of detailed awareness on the part of prospective buyers. Meanwhile, at the higher end of the market wide viewing angles and improved black levels (the latter mainly due to full-array backlighting) have been achieved. As ever, big screens have come down in price, possibly delaying some people’s purchase of mid-size UHD models...
SETMAKERS Most individual manufacturers, for ever in white-hot competition, have introduced new techniques and hardware in the recent past, with the South Korean companies to the fore. LG will soon bring to market its 65-inch UHD rollup screen, first seen at CES 2018. In more conventional models their LED/LCD range has been rebranded as NanoCell. New model OLED65C9 incorporates a second-generation C8 picture processor chip with better motion and HDR performance than last year’s implementation.
Panasonic’s GZ2000 range features a high-brightness display panel with HDR10+ and Dolby HDR; it has a very good picture performance. A new ‘pro-intelligent’ picture processor, type HCX Pro, is incorporated in the high-end screens, more powerful than its predecessors, and very good at suppressing image artefacts. Philips, now offering Dolby Vision HDR circuitry across all of its TV range, has recently introduced two premium OLED TVs in 55- and 65- inch sizes. New, too, is their image processing chip type P5 with 20% more power than earlier types, rendering smoother colour graduations and more detail in shadowed areas. Philips have yet to launch an 8K TV product, claiming that in the current absence of native 8K content, upscaling to this standard is not as effective as UHD operation with the their P5 processor chip. Samsung is very much into 8K hardware and working hard to promote very large screens, culminating soon in a 98-inch model – no prices have been announced at the time of writing this! The company’s QLED screens’ brightness can rise to 2000 nit, amongst the highest levels available in domestic products. In UHD models a distinct improvement in off-axis viewing comes from a reduction in light leakage, while a next-gen picture processor renders better upscaling and reduces image artefacts: it embodies a ‘learning’ concept rather than working by rote (preset operational rules) so that picture content can be analysed and optimised dynamically. Sony is also very active in the 8K and largescreen realms. Embodying both of these, their LCD/LED ZG9 series, offering 88- and 98-inch screens, incorporate a full-array ultra-dense Backlight Master Drive to push down black levels (thus improving contrast) and
“Samsung is very much into hardware and w 8K ork hard to promote ing large screens, cu very lm soon in a 98-inch inating m – no prices have odel b announced at th een e tim of writing this!” e
suppress spurious light halos. These models are especially good at image upscaling from both HD and 4K programme sources. For me, a stand-out TV product in 2019 is Samsung’s QE65Q90R. It is a QLED type with 480-zone full-array backlighting which pushes LCD technology to its current limit. It has the wide-angle viewing feature mentioned above while retaining LCD’s brightness advantage over LED panels. This model’s performance is exceptional in many ways, though that’s reflected in its high retail price – for a 65-inch size – of about £3800.
CHINESE CHALLENGE A challenge to setmakers offering product in the UK market is beginning to be posed by Chinese manufacturers Hisense and TCL, whose TVs are starting to appear in reviews in UK journals and in retailers’ showrooms. Largely aimed at the middle of the market and with low prices, they can offer good – if not yet excellent – specifications and performance. In the spring of this year a Hisense 43-inch model (43A6200UK) got a three-star rating in Which magazine, while a small one (H32A5600) was favourably reviewed there. It could well be that a Chinese 75-inch TV will emerge this year at around the £1000 mark; meanwhile Argos was recently promoting 50-inch Hisense screens at £329, 55-inch at £399 and 65-inch at £599. AO offers similar prices on TCL TVs: 50-inch at £299, 55-inch at £300.49 and 65-inch at £599. TCL is one of the fastest-growing brands in the USA, and has lately taken second place in the TV market globally – see page 10 of our April issue. Stand-out product: Samsung QE65Q90R
CONNECTED PLANET: CE AND MDA
Follow the smart money Smart home technology and products are now part of the mainstream. Voice technology is no longer a gimmick but an integral part of a growing number of products. Consumers expect more of their devices to be smart. George Cole and the GC team talk to Consumer Electronics and Major Domestic Appliances manufacturers who are investing in technologies for the 21st century Connected Planet
ot so long ago, technological innovation in Consumer Electronics was what excited consumers most, while Major Domestic Appliances were more in the background, perceived as the always-necessary but technologically unglamorous work horses of the home. That changed, of course, as exciting innovations in MDA caught the public imagination and we coined the phrase “White Goods are the new Brown Goods.” Retailers welcomed the excitement, though were perhaps grateful that White Goods did not quite follow CE into the damaging spiral of rapidly commoditised innovation, price cutting and falling margins. We are now well into a new phase, with CE leading the drive towards the connected planet: smart technology that links the control of our devices. This time, White Goods is part of the revolution, with its own smart innovations
pioneering ways to connect, monitor and control the entire gamut of domestic life. Many of the leading players are involved in both CE and MDA, and the Internet of Things is creating connections which now encompass not only TV and home entertainment, but washing, cooling, refrigeration, lighting, heating, home security… Some may question the relevance of some of these innovations, but there is no questioning the inexorable progress of the connected planet. As GC’s CE consultant George Cole says: “The smart money is on the smart home market growing even faster over the next few years.”
VOICING OPINIONS Smart is real and present, and voice control is one of the developments driving the advent of the connected home. Both CE and MDA players are investing in the technology. Mike Somerset, Sony UK and Ireland TV marketing manager,
Pure DiscovR: Everybody’s little helper
says: “Smart home technology is growing in popularity as more consumers understand the benefits it can bring to them and their home. Consumers can create a complete smart home eco-system through a single hub, meaning fewer wires and remotes, and less fuss. Consumers are always looking for products that enhance their living experience and smart home technology is giving consumers more autonomy over their homes, all through the power of their voice.” He cites Sony’sXB501G wireless speaker as an example. Sony UK and Ireland head of sound Claire Poux notes that “this smart concept also extends beyond the four walls of the home.” Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are being made available on headphone ranges, taking the smart home out and about. George Tennet, global sales director at Pure a relatively new entrant to smart home solutions believes “convenience is key to driving the smart home market. The idea of talking to a device and asking it to control your home’s heating or order shopping would have seemed far-fetched years ago, but this technology is now highly accessible to users from all walks of life. The fact that we can now use it to enhance and assist our everyday lives is incredibly exciting.”
KEEPING IT RELEVANT Tennet adds that the entertainment value is also hugely important. “Whether it’s keeping up with a podcast series on a smart speaker or streaming box sets on a smart TV, it’s easier than ever to access your favourite content, no matter the source. While the way in which media is
CONNECTED PLANET: CE AND MDA
consumed is as fragmented as ever, smart devices give us the luxury of choice – where owners can enjoy their desired content from their pick of providers.” Carolyn Anderson, LG Electronics UK marketing director, says LG “has identified voice control as one of the most useful functions of smart devices and appliances – it makes using products quicker, easier, and through AI, can make tailored recommendations based on what it knows you like.” LG’s new range of TVs have Google Assistant built in, to achieve control of compatible smart home devices using just voice, creating a centre for the smart home and beyond. Stuart Mayo, head of marketing strategy, SmartThings, Samsung Electronics UK, contends that, along with security, convenience is one of “the main driving forces behind the evergrowing popularity of connected living, with families wanting to live simpler and easier lives to allow more time for doing the things they love. Transforming to a smarter home can improve control over every aspect of how a house operates, and increases the safety and accessibility of it as well. By managing all home devices from the one place, tapping into high-tech functionality brings increased energy efficiency and improved appliance functionality, making life easier and more enjoyable for the whole family.”
Somerset. “We are always listening to consumer needs, and so more of our products include capability with smart assistants. As technology is constantly advancing, we work closely with our retail partners to ensure our key product messages are communicated effectively to consumers, in order for them to fully understand the benefits of each of our models and new technologies.” It is also important, he advises, “for retail partners to fully demonstrate the key features of products. We run comprehensive training programmes to ensure we train as many retailers as possible, on new ranges and technologies, across our product offering.” LG’s Anderson agrees that “more and more [consumers] are becoming aware of the dayto-day benefits connected appliances bring. According to PWC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights survey, 14% of Brits own a smart home device and 25% who don’t own one plan to buy one in the future.” Anderson also notes that even for those who aren’t as tech-savvy as others, the features introduced in many smart appliances focus on the real, day-to-day benefits they bring to consumers’ lives which is what draws them to purchase them. “Our research shows that awareness of Smart home tech is certainly increasing,” says Samsung’s Mayo, “and consumers are better understanding the benefits that tech can deliver. Samsung SmartThings is working on several initiatives that show customers how easy it is to add a little ‘smartness’ to their home through the purchases they are already intending on making.”
“We’re learning that consumers are adding smart devices one experience at a time”
ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS UP TO SPEED? Many consumers do appear to understand the concept of the smart home. “Not only do most consumers understand the smart home concept, they’re embracing it,” says Sony’s
PICKING AND CHOOSING There are many smart home products to choose from, and George Cole found when speaking to manufacturers that most of them want to start with CE. It is right that the concept of the connected home should bring CE and MDA, home security, shading and lighting together as a single, integrated domestic system. But it is inevitable, because of the origins of the technology in home entertainment, home hubs, apps and internet connections, that CE is most often where the smart home choices begin, and where the questions about compatibility with the most popular platforms arise. Leading CE manufacturers, some of whom are also involved in White Goods, were glad of the opportunity to give reassurance: LG’s ThinQ app is integrated into some new products, including AI ThinQ TVs, the WK7 ThinQ speaker and Google Assistant-enabled Soundbars; Pure has entered the smart home market with the launch of its first smart speaker: DiscovR, which includes a system for switching off the microphone for increased privacy, and Music Discovery, which identifies a music track on the radio at the touch of a button; Samsung’s SmartThings app allows TV viewers to see who is at the door when used with a compatible smart doorbell, monitor home security cameras or control devices or automations. “And if you already have a smart voice assistant speaker,” adds Stuart Mayo, “SmartThings is compatible with both Alexa and Google assistant, meaning you can control the new TV from these assistants also;” Sony’s BRAVIA TVs feature Sony Android TV, which “supports a wide range of apps from Google Play, including YouTube, Netflix and Prime Video.” Sony’s Poux adds: “Our SRSXB501G speaker comes equipped with Google
Samsung: Talking via Bixby on TV
CONNECTED PLANET: CE AND MDA Beko’s Autodose dishwasher: measuring exactly the right amount of detergent for the load every time
tastes, and be controlled by voice and through apps. But it is a less intuitive step to imagine and embrace the idea of a solar panel talking to a washing machine (or being under voice control), a cooker finding recipe suggestions on the Internet, a dishwasher making programming decisions or a fridge/freezer “learning” a family’s routine and programming itself for maximum energy efficiency, or ordering food accordingly. Or indeed, to understand exactly how a light-bulb can be “smart.” However, the truth is that these things are happening, and consumers, if they can see and feel the benefits, are beginning to embrace the entirety of the Connected Planet. Naturally, a “whole home” system comprising widely different functions and devices throughout the home – and beyond – will raise these questions: How much freedom do I have to choose individual appliances I like but can still talk to each other? Will all this be easy to control and use? Will what’s on offer actually make my life easier? And, of course, the big one: With all these things all over the house connected to each other, how secure in my home from hackers and data collectors? Or to put it another way, consumers understand the importance of smartphone, laptop and tablet security, but what if the back door giving access to everything in the entire system is a toaster or a coffee machine? This may sound a little far-fetched, but it’s a concern that needs to be answered by manufacturers and retailers when consumers are being encouraged to make their homes part of the Connected Planet. Experiments have already shown that a hacker working remotely from Spain found it relatively easy to infiltrate a household system in the UK, unlocking the front door, turning lights and appliances on and off and controlling security cameras.
“56 million smart appliances will be shipped in 2019, up from 25 million in 2018” Assistant built-in and can be used as a smart home hub, connecting all your smart devices through the Google Home app.”
COMPLICATIONS But despite the array of tempting products, there are challenges in promoting smart home technology, as LG’s Anderson notes: “One of the primary mental blocks of installing a smart home system is balancing the complexity of the system against its usability. For some, it may be easier to start with a very smart home network and expand as enhancements are needed or desired.” Pure’s Tennet agrees: “The complexity of smart technology may be an obstacle for consumers, particularly those adopting it into their homes and using it for the first time. Therefore, it’s vital that manufacturers provide clear messaging and robust support wherever necessary. Brands must also ensure that devices are as intuitive and easy-to-use as possible.” Samsung’s Mayo adds: “People are embracing a more connected lifestyle within the home. However, it isn’t going to be a quick evolution. We’re learning that consumers are adding smart
devices one experience at a time. When they see how connected devices add value and work seamlessly, they gain an understanding of how they can use others, too. This will, in time, lead to households having a huge variety of products fully connected with each other. There should be standards to ensure consumers are protected and reassured that the devices they bring into their home are secure and fit for purpose.”
THE WHITE ANSWERS These questions of interoperability, common standards, security, simplicity and convenience come under greater scrutiny when white goods, lighting and the whole world of household appliances that make up the “Internet of Things” are brought into the equation. Consumers have had time to understand and embrace the idea that TV and home entertainment systems can be “smart” enough to communicate with each other, draw content from a number of sources across the Internet, make “intelligent” suggestions to users based on their perceived
Hama WiFi LED Smart Bulbs and Switches Connecting to a home WiFi network, Hama LED Smart Bulbs and Switches can be controlled wirelessly from the free ‘Hama Smart Solution’ app for smartphone or via Alexa or Google voice assistants. Effortlessly create and control entire room lighting set-ups, adjust brightness and set the mood with over 16 million colour settings to choose from, all in one place. IFTTT compatibility allows Hama smart lighting to be fully integrated within the smarthome environment, with inclusion in pre-set voice routines (e.g. ‘Good morning’ turns on lights) and simultaneous triggering alongside other ‘smart’ devices.
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TALKING FREELY If compatibility, simplicity and security are the big issues, what have manufacturers got to say about their vision of the connected home? Clearly, growth of smart appliances is an opportunity and a challenge. As Beko head of marketing Keval Shah highlights, Futuresource Consulting research finds “56 million smart appliances will be shipped in 2019, up from 25 million in 2018.” He adds that “by democratising technology, we are enabling as many people as possible to access it.” Add to this huge growth the fact that many consumers already own some components of the connected home – perhaps an Alexa or Google Home voice control hub – and are taking an incremental approach, adding further appliances piecemeal, and we have a large number of potential customers wanting to know whether what they already have will work
CONNECTED PLANET: CE AND MDA
with what they want to add, and that their home can’t be taken over by a hackers. On the compatibility front, Marco Falaschetti, Marketing Director at Whirlpool, acknowledges the challenge and proffers a solution. “A major issue,” he says, “is the disjointed nature of the market; few manufacturers have addressed the issue of connecting the abundant smart, connected appliances together. However,” he adds, Whirlpool has taken a leadership role by “developing IFTTT compatibility for its suite of connected appliances. IFTTT is an incredibly powerful, cloud-based web-service that makes it possible for everyday users to connect a wide range of apps, services and products, helping to forge links between the digital services that we all depend on daily and allowing them to work together. Whirlpool has launched three appliance channels on IFTTT, each offering end users specific capabilities to allow the creation of unique and innovative solutions for home automation.” Whirlpool is, he claims, “one of the first appliance manufacturers in Europe to launch appliances that can ‘talk’ to other apps and connected products.” Steve Macdonald, business director, Freestanding Division, Hoover Candy UK, cites the company’s own solution. “Hoover’s AXI range,” he says, “is the UK’s first collection of Smart appliances to work with both Alexa and Google Home, alongside our own Hoover Wizard app. Consumers are now being driven to purchase these types of devices because of the time-saving benefits, with one of our surveys finding that consumers believe they could save, on average, an hour a week by controlling their devices remotely. We’ve recently seen a huge shift in consumers adopting Smart technology in many areas of the home, including a significant rise in the uptake of artificial intelligence (AI). Mass-market products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home have made this more accessible, and have meant it is now possible for kitchen appliances to use the technology to deliver real solutions to long-standing user problems.” He goes on to highlight the retail opportunity this creates: “Smart appliances can talk to each other,” he says, “as well as allowing users to control multiple appliances from one device. While a customer may come into the shop looking to purchase a new washing machine, if they buy into the concept of Smart appliances, they could end up upgrading [more of] their kitchen appliances.” Samsung’s Stuart Mayo speaks for a brand with a presence in both the CE and MDA camps: “Samsung’s Smart Appliances link with third party products through the SmartThings app, allowing consumers to use our Smart Appliances with other brand’s smart products. This gives retailers an opportunity to increase attachment by either guiding consumers towards setting up a new smart home eco-system or adding to their existing products. At Samsung,” he adds, “we support an open approach to the Smart Home eco system. We work as part of the Open Connectivity Foundation,” whose members, he
“Smart home technology is giving consumers more autonomy over their homes, all through the power of their voice”
says, are collaborating “to develop standards which enable interoperability between brands and devices, even if they come from different industries. We do this to give consumers confidence that their new Smart Home is not only open and accessible today, but that it stays that way for years to come.” The OCF has more than 300 members worldwide, including household names such as LG, Electrolux, Hoover, Arcelik (Beko’s parent), and is continuing to work towards “secure interoperability for consumers, businesses and industries.” Its members believe that “secure and reliable device discovery and connectivity is a foundational component to enable IoT.”
Hoover AXI: the UK’s first collection of Smart appliances to work with both Alexa and Google Home, alongside Hoover’s own Wizard app.
SECURING THE SYSTEM The OCF is also involved in that other basic requirement – the security of a home connectivity system from malicious attack. (See George Cole’s column on page 16 of this issue for a fuller examination of Smart Home security.) “Security is a significant factor” in connected devices, says Samsung’s Mayo. “All of our products and systems are protected by industry leading security software, Samsung Knox, to give users peace of mind [and] we are a leading member of the Open Connectivity Foundation and are active amongst its security working group, working proactively with other brands to raise the standards of security across Smart Home products.” Also representative of the numbers of responsible manufacturers who acknowledge and address security concerns is Whirlpool’s Falaschetti. “As recent history has shown, almost no system is ‘un-hackable’,” he admits, but says “Whirlpool has approached the issue of malicious attacks to its connected appliances by putting in place a dedicated team that is addressing this on a global level. Whirlpool has implemented technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risks of the processing and nature of the data. Whirlpool masks its communications using industrystandard encryption and performs regular testing against its infrastructure and its apps by using specialised tools and agencies.” Security may also be an issue in terms of product safety, given that domestic appliance fires continue to be reported regularly and some fire services and safety experts are advising
that we should not run MDA unattended. This appears to be at odds with the “freedom” to be elsewhere doing something more interesting that white goods per se, and latterly Smart white goods, are supposed to confer on 21st century users. But the argument goes that if white goods are left running without supervision, isn’t it better to be able to monitor them remotely with a voice hub or app which can detect, identify and warn of any issues, and prompt appropriate action?
NO GOING BACK If, as seems likely, manufacturers continue to produce Smart appliances on the basis, as Smeg product manager Lucy Dunstan succinctly puts it, that they are “a worthwhile investment – but only if they serve a genuinely useful purpose and enhance people’s lives,” and continue to develop them along those lines, then the Connected Home can only keep growing. For retailers, their share in this growth has to be based on showroom opportunities to demonstrate, and sales staff ’s ability to understand and address consumer concerns about compatibility, simplicity and security. Who knew, back in 1970, that virtually every home would have several “computers” in it as a matter of course, and that virtually every individual would be carrying one with them everywhere and at all times? The time may not be too far in the future when it’s commonplace for all electrical items in the home to be Smart enough to talk to their owners and to each other, and even intelligent enough to take decisions about what’s best to do.
CLEAN LIVING This Dimplex dehumidifier is available in three sizes to suit rooms of 15m2, 24m2 and 30m2
odours, dust, scented candles and chemicals from cleaning agents – a high-performing model will also remove bacteria and viruses from the air – while dehumidifiers work to prevent damp, condensation, mould, mildew and odours in the domestic environment.
BREATHE EASY The UK has some of the highest asthma rates in Europe. According to Asthma UK, 5.4 million people here are currently receiving treatment for the respiratory condition and, on average, three people a day die as a result of it. On top of this, up to 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from hayfever. Retailers armed with this “Growing awareness information, and those who can take of the dangers of advantage of the benefit offered by poor indoor air quality heightened media coverage about is driving sales of air quality, have a strong opportunity effective air treatment to drive sales of products that tackle asthma and allergies, and to educate products…” consumers about their benefits, says Dimplex’s Paul. “The most important thing is to be able to understand the consumer need. Make use of national initiatives like national awareness days/weeks to raise awareness of these issues It is well documented that outdoor air pollution is damaging to and the products that can help, as well as health, but less attention is given to the potential health threats highlighting the dangers posed in our homes. “In some cases an air purifier or dehumidifier posed by indoor air quality. GC looks at the growing requirement will be a replacement purchase, but so often it for air treatment and floorcare appliances which help allievate is something that a customer didn’t even know the hazards associated with pollutants in the home existed, let alone something they needed. Retailers should highlight the issue faced by so ccording to a recent global survey by offer the best solutions to customers: “Poor many, whether it be condensation, damp, mould independent research firm YouGov ventilation of a typical home can create ideal and mildew around the home, or allergy, asthma on behalf of Blueair, a leader in air conditions for mould and dust mites, while being and hayfever sufferers, then present the solution purification solutions, seven out of ten people a nation of pet lovers has also added to the rise of – an air purifier with HEPA filter or a dehumidifier.” across the globe worry about the air they allergens in our homes. By familiarising yourself DON’T OVERPROMISE breathe indoors. Indoor air is up to five times with both the problem and the solution, it provides Hoover’s Davies says it is important that more polluted than outdoor air, and considering a platform on which to talk to potential customers appliances aren’t sold as a miracle solution to end that people spend about 90% of their time and offer knowledgeable advice on what allergies. “They can greatly improve and help, but indoors, it is not surprising that concern is rising. appliances are suitable for which allergies.” will never cure,” she asserts. “An understanding of DUST, CHEMICALS, BACTERIA CONSUMER EDUCATION the type of allergies is a great starting point as it AND VIRUSES Blueair’s research shows that the pollutants informs what products can have benefits to help Across generations and geographies people people worry about in their indoor environment reduce the impact in the home. We’d recommend now recognise that the air they breathe indoors are smoke, pollen, pet dander, PM2.5 (fine Allergy UK – the UK’s leading charity for allergies affects their health and wellbeing and that of particulate matter) and microplastics. And – as a starting point as they have a wealth of their families: dust, chemicals, bacteria and amongst all of the rooms in the home, the information on their website and even mention viruses in the air are the focus of concern. In bedroom is considered the most important how appliances can positively impact sufferers.” the UK, 78% of people are worried most about for clean air, which leads Nick Paul, portables dust in their homes, according to Blueair’s study, product marketing manager for Dimplex, to assert DEMONSTRATION AND UNDERSTANDING Davies adds that it is essential to be able to and the British also worry more about germs in that it has never been more important to educate demonstrate products in-store. “Those suffering the home – 65% of people say they’re anxious consumers about the health benefits of specific with allergies will need to hoover their soft about bacteria and viruses, and 49% are also products such as air purifiers and dehumidifiers. furnishings and mattresses regularly, but at the concerned about chemicals. Growing awareness of the dangers of poor same time, [appliances] may require testing on And here lies the growing opportunity for indoor air quality is driving sales of effective a wooden floor, as it is recommended that they retailers in the areas of Floorcare and Air air treatment products, he maintains. “And with don’t have carpets in their home.” Treatment. so much time spent indoors, whether at home Like Dimplex’s Nick Paul, Davies also suggests or at work, air purifiers and dehumidifiers are ALL PROBLEMS NEED SOLUTIONS that retailers consider endorsing and being part becoming increasingly popular as consumers Catrin Davies, senior product manager at Hoover of Allergy Awareness Week, which Allergy UK seek solutions to overcome hayfever, allergies, SDA, maintains that the high percentage of time promotes heavily each year. “It gives a basis on damp, mould, mildew or to tackle harmful VOCs we spend indoors has led to an increase in the which to promote both your understanding and (Volatile Organic Compounds).” number of people suffering from allergies, and products on offer while ensuring your staff fully Using air purifiers can help reduce exposure to genning up on the causes could help retailers understand the benefits of the products you sell.” common household pollutants such as cooking
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16 - George Cole Gets Connected The convenience offered by the proliferation of smart devices in the home can come at a cost – if you can ac...
Published on Jun 20, 2019
16 - George Cole Gets Connected The convenience offered by the proliferation of smart devices in the home can come at a cost – if you can ac...