From cars to memory cards, goods flying off shelves again

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(This story originally appeared in on Dec 24, 2020)

NEW DELHI: Covid could not dampen the consumer spirit for long. Sales of everything from cars and SUVs to two-wheelers, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, mobile phones and laptops have rebounded strongly after the zero volumes recorded in April. In categories such as luxury cars and large-screen TVs, dealers even ran out of stocks.

“Six months back, we could not foresee such a strong comeback by the consumer. On certain models, such as the EQC electric and the GLE and GLS SUVs, we are completely sold out (all cars cost about Rs 1 crore or more). Currently, we have no fresh supplies,” Santosh Iyer, VP (sales & marketing) at Mercedes-Benz India, told TOI. “We feel terrible to keep the customer waiting.”

The same situation prevails in the mobile phone market. Asim Warsi, senior VP at Samsung India, said sales of premium devices such as the Fold2, Note20 and S20 “exceeded targets” despite their launch in the corona period. “It has been a resurgent market, first driven by pent-up demand and then by festivals. The average buying prices went up by 20%, and overall we expect sales to grow by 30%.”

Companies such as Sony and Panasonic saw strong sales of 55-inch and bigger TVs. Their dealers ran out of stock – hardly the sign of a crisis. “Sales started picking up from the second quarter as the situation stabilised. Large-screen TVs saw good traction, owing to more people staying at home and watching entertainment content via OTT platforms,” Sunil Nayyar, MD of Sony in India, said.

New categories emerged as work and entertainment shifted home. With house helps locked down, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners flew off the shelves, even for premium players such as Bosch and Dyson.

As the demand for ‘hearables’ – earphones, headphones and truewireless (TWS) buds – multiplied, companies like Harman, Apple, boAt, JBL, Sony, and Samsung had record sales.

Despite the pressure on jobs and salaries, refrigerators, washing machines and microwave ovens sold well. “We registered more than 30% growth over last year, primarily driven by refrigerators and washing machines.

These products saw growth due to work-fromhome and do-it-yourself cooking trends.

In LED TVs, demand surpassed supplies, mainly due to the high sellout during the early months of unlock,” Manish Sharma, CEO of Panasonic India, said.

Tata group company Voltas said, besides ACs, their range of Beko appliances grew strongly. “Apart from the pent-up demand, festivals played a crucial role in making up for most of the sales lost in the early period of lockdown. The post-festive period will be critical… (and) we expect demand to remain high,” Pradeep Bakshi, MD & CEO of Voltas, said.

The huge demand for digital products was a bonanza for computer companies. Ketan Patel, MD of HP India, said the current trend of PC usage means every member in a family requires a computer – the children for education, and parents for work. “As per IDC, the demand for computers is likely to remain robust in Q4, and PC shipments will likely grow by over 26%.”

Even data storage companies are gaining from the consumer windfall. “Due to the pandemic, everything has shifted to a digital platform. Thus, there is a huge increase in data creation and consumption. Trends such as remote working, eschooling, uptick in gaming, and smart video are driving tremendous demand for our products across consumer and enterprise segments,” Khalid Wani, director of sales at Western Digital India (makers of SanDisk), said.

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