Christmas special

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Irrespective of the global financial crisis, people will be attempting to enjoy Christmas as always. Some products will continue to be the season’s best sellers, such as personal audio, cameras or DAB radios, but there are plenty of new developments in other product categories which will help you to take advantage of season’s good will and profit opportunities. 
That perfect picture
Nick Simon, account director at GfK, has a piece of seasonal advice for retailers: “For the discerning customer who still has some money to spend, TV, LCD and Plasma, more and more likely to be 1080p Full HD, 200Hz too, as manufacturers’ new ranges come out. Let us not forget the opportunity to sell a DVD recorder with hard disc drive, home theatre system or even Blu-ray player at the same time. Christmas also creates tremendous opportunities for retailers to sell new ranges of portable MP3 and MP4 products. DAB continues to find favour and is a perennial Christmas choice.”
Flat panel television has been the Christmas season’s bestseller for a couple of years already and this trend is predicted to continue in 2008 with a small variation. Steve Reichert, public relations manager at Armour, comments: “Currently, the main ‘drivers’ in the business are: ‘High Definition’ in all its forms and ‘iPods’. Thank goodness, there is a vast and profitable industry that produces the countless accessories that can be attached to an iPod or HD screen to enhance its performance. A large part of Armour’s business is in this area, and we continue to enjoy very strong sales in these sectors.”
Panasonic have the same seasonal message for its retailers and customers: “It is an HD Christmas for Panasonic. Therefore we are mainly promoting HD and Freesat products. Panasonic has three new High Definition plasma TVs with Freesat built-in. These plasmas are the PZ81 series and are available in three screen sizes 42in, 46in and 50in. Panasonic are also bringing out the 32in and 37in PZ81 LCD Freesat models in October,” says Steve Lucas, Panasonic’s product specialist.
Panasonic will be running a ‘Living in HD’ roadshow in November and December which will take place in shopping centres around the country, showing the benefits of HD and Freesat products.
Also Loewe is launching several products in time for Christmas, including its slimmest ever television, the Art SL, and the Individual Compose with media player in high gloss white. Kevin Kelly, managing director of Loewe UK, explains: “The Individual Compose range is one of Loewe’s most successful to date incorporating first class picture quality and minimalist design. New for November 2008 is the addition of High Gloss White to the range which is a direct trend we are seeing across a range of different products right now. The Individual Compose is now also available with Media Player allowing users to connect to their home PC network. Meanwhile, at just 89.9mm in profile the Art SL is Loewe’s slimmest television to date, providing picture-perfect high definition images within a slim, attractive exterior. Additional features include the ability to receive digital terrestrial, cable and satellite signals and a DR+ hard disk recorder to pause, rewind and record live television.”
Sony suggest taking advantage of the fact that Christmas is a good time to encourage customers to invest in a home cinema system.  Sony has a range of BRAVIA LCD televisions that will bring the Christmas festivities to life. The new BRAVIA ZX1 is the world’s thinnest LCD television, just 9.9mm slim.  Teamed with a Sony Blu-ray player, such as the slim BDP-S550 featuring 24p True Cinema, they will re-create movie content as the director intended.
The supporting act
Flat panel televisions offer vast attachment sales opportunities. A number of companies, such as BBG, Armour or Alphason, make a considerable effort to support independent retailers by offering a wide range of accessories to complement their flat panel sales – with excellent profit margins – to maximize their earning potential in the busy Christmas period.
Gordon Dutch, CEO of BBG Distributors, gives useful insight into the accessories market: “At BBG we are seeing the market split into those customers who want accessories that are functional and merely fulfil a basic need (ie connect a screen to a DVD player/mount an LCD on the wall) and those that understand that purchasing the right products can actually enhance and improve their overall viewing experience. Therefore the focus of BBG and that of our worldwide partners is to add value not only to the retailers’ sale but also to the end users’ enjoyment.  After all how many consumers are buying the very latest HDTV to get the ultimate picture – and yet within months they could have irreparably damaged the surface of the screen by using regular cleaning products with the resulting loss of picture quality.”
Therefore QED’ the specialist cable manufacturer, is releasing a new and improved version of its ‘Performance’ HDMI , which, along with the new QED ‘Revelation’ loudspeaker cable have both already received rave ‘Five Star’ reviews in the hi-fi consumer press. In addition, QED are releasing an all-new ‘Reference’ series of audio and video interconnects.
Viewsmart – the latest retail and training initiative from Alphason – was designed to help the retailer sell a range of high quality and competitively priced accessories every time the retailer sells a TV panel. Chris Emmerson, chief executive of Alphason Designs, explains: “Underpinning Viewsmart is a range of specially selected cables, brackets plus cleaning and power protection products sitting alongside Alphason’s award winning AV furniture. All these products have been chosen to enhance the viewing experience for consumers, at the same time providing additional margin and profit for the retailer.”
DAB special
DAB radio remains a firm favourite – taking an 83% share of sales of kitchen portables, 69% of personal stereos and 47% of all sales of clock radios. In anticipation of Christmas sales, the DAB manufacturers are planning to promote a very broad offer of DAB radio products.
Pure will be offering the affordable but feature-rich ONE Mini and ONE Elite as Christmas gifts. ONE Mini picked up the award for best portable radio under £50 and ONE Elite was awarded best portable radio under £100 in the 2008 What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision Awards. Another Christmas offer from Pure this year will be Highway, the user-installable DAB radio for the car which is still the only product of its kind on the market. PURE also has a number of new product launches planned for the Christmas season but the manufacturer is keeping them still under wraps.
As well as product promotions, PURE will be highlighting its environmental credentials with the EcoPlus product range, seven of which have been endorsed by the Energy Saving Trust.
Responding to the concerns of the eco-conscious customers that portable DAB radios tend to be power-hungry, Roberts will be promoting its ecological range of DAB radios with significantly increased battery life. The ecologic 1 and ecologic 2 models have built-in battery chargers and the ecologic 3 and Gemini 21 offer long battery life thanks to an unique circuit design which results in very low power consumption. The ecologic 5 & ecologic 6 are two new digital clock radios with very low power consumption.The solarDAB also forms part of this range and is the world’s first solar-powered digital radio and the special edition Piano Black Revival out soon offers 120 hours battery life.
BBG  will continue to promote the Sonoro DAB Cubo over the festive season  “as it is perfect as an imaginative and different gift idea.  With a choice of ten colours and finishes it’s easy to find the right one to suit any member of the family,” says Gordon Dutch.
One of the most exciting radio products, recently launched, which will be heavily promoted during the Christmas season will be internet radios.
PURE will be raising awareness of its EVOKE Flow, PURE’s first internet radio which has already been highly commended by Stuff magazine and won Product of the Year title in the 2008 What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision Awards. 
Meanwhile BBG will be promoting the Sonoro Elements internet radio which  “not only enables access to thousands of radio stations worldwide but it uses the very latest software making it so easy to install and set-up that even the most technophobes person can do it with ease, ” stresses Gordon Dutch.
In this category is also Roberts’ STREAM 202 – the world’s first portable Wi-Fi internet radio that also offers DAB/FM.
The internet radios will be a particularly attractive proposition for people who have come to the UK from overseas and are unable to make it back for Christmas – enabling them to keep in touch with the community and customs of their country at this special time of year.
A point of difference
A digital camera is a popular Christmas gift idea is – for capturing all these special festive moments. As well as two new HD camcorders, the HDC-SD100 and the HDC-HS100, Panasonic will be promoting Lumix compact cameras, such as the DMC-LX3, equipped with a high speed, high-performance engine, the Venus Engine IV.
Since digital SLR cameras are becoming increasingly popular allowing  consumers to enjoy the instant, high quality images they can produce, Sony will be brining to the attention of professional and hobbyist photographers its A900 D-SLR camera – the world’s first 24.6 megapixel full frame sensor D-SLR camera.
However, a Christmas offer with a difference will be the new Sony Reader which can store 160 e-books on its internal memory and hundreds more when using a memory card. 
Digital photo frames are increasingly popular Christmas gifts, with this market doubling in size in the last year.  Sony’s recently released model, the DPF-D100, has a 10.2in screen and features a high quality SVGA screen for displaying up to 500 pictures stored on the 256mb memory.
The rich flavour
Christmas is an important retail season for coffee makers which remain aspirational products in Britain. The choice of products and technologies is vast (see page 28) therefore retailers’ advice is crucial here.  For the top of the market De’Longhi has released its latest bean-to-cup coffee machines – the Perfecta ESAM 5500 and ESAM 5400 and the manufacturer’s recent Special Edition Lattissima.
Philips will be promoting its Senseo Latte Select which using Douwe Egberts pods, produces cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos – with the new fresh milk function – all at the touch of the button.
Although café culture is dominating the high street, Britain’s tea-drinking tradition has not only continued unaffected but it reached a new level of sophistication, with new tea houses appearing in urban areas. In response to this trend, in time for Christmas Meyer Group has unveiled Fine T, an new concept in gourmet speciality tea machines and the inaugural product from Meyer’s new IQ Innovations brand.  Its launch is a direct response to the buoyant speciality and loose tea markets, both of which have experienced substantial growth in terms of retail sales volume in recent years. The two important considerations when preparing these teas is the temperature of the water and the infusion time.  Fine T has seven pre-set temperature and infusion times to cover all gourmet teas, starting as low as 60-70ºC for fine green tea, 80°C for Oolong tea and 90-95ºC for black teas.
In time for the Christmas season Breville is launching its Hot Cup, designed to meet the concerns of energy-conscious consumers. The Hot Cup (VKJ142) will boil water for up to five cups, or as little as one cup – so users can save energy by only boiling what they need. 
Small but perfectly formed
“Spending over the Christmas period is expected to be less than the previous two years in the small domestic product area. Traditional gift products, such as stylers, shavers and coffee makers, are likely to sell a similar amount of products this Christmas period, however consumers are now more price conscious and therefore more likely to purchase less valuable gifts,” advises Betty Fieve, GfK account executive.  However many small kitchen appliances – especially those with innovative design and technology – make perfect gifts. The kettles and toasters in De’Longhi’s Icona range launched earlier this year, which are before “a retro take on classic designs” will definitely fit the bill. Also Prestige’s Deco range of colourful kettles and toasters, the latest being Vibrant Red and Slate Blue, will be a welcome addition to the kitchen.
For the customers looking for appliances with eco-benefits you may recommend Philips’ Energy Efficient Kettle range which saves around 25% energy while allowing users to choose between temperatures of 40, 60, 80 and 100ºC – ideal for green teas and herbal infusions.
Serious cooks in the family may consider the Antony Worrall Thompson by Breville range incorporating the Intelligent Blender (VBL011) and Intelligent Food Processor (FP21), with a new  DVD from Antony called ‘Chef On Your Shoulder’, in which he goes through a series of recipes that enable the consumer to get the best out of their products at home.
Christmas glamour
Christmas is also the party and corporate entertaining season during which looking good is high on most people’s agendas. The personal grooming market is going to be awash with new product offers therefore it’s important to select the well known brands with reputations for product innovation and quality.
For the female population, Philips will be promoting a wide selection of products including: the new TRESemmé Philips HP4992 ProCeramic AC dryer, the HP4687 TRESemmé Philips SalonStraight Glamour for professional straightening reaching a temperature of 230°c, the HP4666 Philips TRESemmé SalonStraight Glide Straightener which gives sonic-charged super slick styling, and the HP4668 TRESemmé Philips SalonStraight Seduce Straightener Gift Pack combining a selection of professional hair styling products.
Meanwhile, Nicky Clarke is launching a selection of hair care gift sets, such as the Nicky Clarke Golden Goddess Gift Box (NGP067) – including a Professional Super Slim Ceramic & Nano Gold Straightener which reaches a 230ºC temperature and has a ceramic and nano gold coating. The manufacturer will also be promoting its the new Nicky Clarke Classic Salon Dryer Gift Box (NGP068) featuring a black and white vanity case which contains a Professional 2000W Hairdryer with ceramic technology for a smooth finish – plus a whole load of hair essentials.
For the men, Philips, the world’s leader in men’s shaving, will be marketing its Body Groom Plus, designed to shave, trim and groom every part of the man’s body from the neck down and Formula 1 Shaver – a collectable shaver featuring the AT&T Williams F1 logo.
Post-Christmas clean up
Vacuum and steam cleaners or deep carpet cleaners many not be on everyone’s Christmas gift list but they are definitely on the mind of homemakers preparing festive activities and concerned with the state of the house afterwards.
Charles Gordon, Bissell’s international market director, advises retailers: “Make floorcare a focal point – use seasonal displays in-store to attract interest eg Christmas party clean ups of spillages for deep cleaners, spring cleaning. It’s an ideal time to encourage customers to buy a deep cleaner, such as Bissell All-Rounder,  for those post Christmas/New Year party aftermath clear-ups – and, of course, getting the home shipshape ready for when the mother-in-law arrives.”
Vax will be carrying seasonal promotion of a selection of carpet washers ranging from under £100 for a V-024A Rapide Classic up to £329.99 for the V-125 All Terrain, offering various cleaning solutions for every home.
Meanwhile, Dyson’s Christmas activities will focus on its latest product, the DC16 Car and Boat handheld vacuum cleaner which, like its hand-held predecessors, may prove a favourite around the house.
Finally, with all the festive preparation taking place in the kitchen, its worth reminding customers that all the food spillages on the ceramic floors and tiled areas can be best cleaned with steam cleaners such as Home-tek Light’n’Easy HT851 Handy Mop and Light’n’Easy HT829 Steam Mop Elite. The effectiveness of these products is proved by demonstration or with the use of DVDs which Home-tek provides for independent retailers which can be tailored to the retailers’ individual needs.

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