Design & Interiors

Unlikely home appliances boom

WASHING-MACHINE
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Summary

  • According to Mehboob Manji of Alyassin Appliances in Nairobi, demand for freezers peaked in March and April. This was the same for refrigerators.
  • The 32-inch to 40-inch smart TVs were also best-sellers as consumers connected their meeting apps and home entertainment to the internet-enabled devices, Mr Manji says.
  • One of the best-selling items at Hotpoint Appliances, an electronics dealer that saw increased traffic to its stores, is washing machines.

Many Kenyans have found a new appreciation for their homes and are even more interested than ever in making them comfortable and efficient in the pandemic.

So what home appliances have they been buying since March?

According to Mehboob Manji of Alyassin Appliances in Nairobi, demand for freezers peaked in March and April. This was the same for refrigerators.

The 32-inch to 40-inch smart TVs were also best-sellers as consumers connected their meeting apps and home entertainment to the internet-enabled devices, Mr Manji says.

One of the best-selling items at Hotpoint Appliances, an electronics dealer that saw increased traffic to its stores, is washing machines.

“During the initial stages of the pandemic, customers were purchasing fridges, freezers for stocking up food and washing machines,” said a Hotpoint representative.

The pandemic has brought with it a shift in consumer spending as home appliances that were initially slow-moving pick up the pace.

Sam Odhiambo, the head of consumer electronics division Samsung Electronics East Africa says that the increase in the purchase of smart home appliances can be attributed to the adoptions of the work-from-home model brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Home appliances at Hotpoint in Nairobi Sarit Centre. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“Smart home appliances make it easier for everyone from professionals to working mothers to maintain a happier, healthier home as they attempt to balance work and family life. As a result of consumer interaction and feedback in the Kenyan market we have decided to increase the consumer electronics available to this market,” said Mr Odhiambo.

Pre-Covid, many households were enjoying the assistance of nannies, cooks, and cleaners. Then coronavirus led to a decline in domestic help as some households restricted the number of people visiting and families started using their appliances more often. Others finally made a decision to buy them.

Nyaboke Onyambu is among those who opted for a washing machine when she stopped using cleaners.

Good year

For Wanjiru Mwangi, her cleaning lady was unavailable after being locked out of Nairobi when the Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. Rather than pick another cleaner, she settled on a washing machine.

The phenomenon is global. Data from research firm GfK—which collects sales data from over 70 countries—shows that home appliances have proven to be resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Home appliances at Hotpoint in Nairobi Sarit Centre. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“At around six percent, the global decline in sales in the first half of the year was very moderate compared with other sectors,” said Kai Hillebrandt, chairman of the supervisory board of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH.

“This development can be explained by the industry’s innovative strength and the fact that the home electronics segment can offer a large number of technical products for [email protected] that are in high demand during the crisis: From devices for home-based work and homeschooling ([email protected]) to products for all areas of the home— like entertainment ([email protected]), food preparation ([email protected]), cleaning, washing— as well as health care and well-being,” he said.

GfK data showed that in the first half of the year, freezer sales and food preparation were up by 24.8 percent.

“In the panic phase when lockdowns were being initiated, consumers stockpiled frozen food, driving the immediate need for freezers and this is reflected in the sales figures,” said GfK.

According to GfK’s Consumer Life survey, more than half (53 percent) of consumers globally are always looking for ways to simplify their life, especially when everything moved home.

“We have observed a 20 percent increase in demand. We believe the overall improved performance of this segment is attributed to an increasing preference for using smart electronics and appliances, the growing of living, and a growing middle-class,” said Haewoong Im, LG marketing manager.

Cinema-like experience

According to Mr Im, in the last months, the electronics dealer saw an increase in the purchase of washing machines and televisions.

“Most of our customers visiting our dealers and retail outlets say they are seeking electronics that will bring the cinema-like experience in their homes,” he added.

This is in line with the global trend where consumers adjusted to life in lockdown thus creating the need for home entertainment. With restricted movement, there was also a shift to e-commerce.

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Home appliances at Hotpoint in Nairobi Sarit Centre. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“We have had to revamp our e-commerce platforms to align with government regulations as well as keep abreast of the evolving global e-commerce sector,” said Mr Im.

He adds: “The coronavirus pandemic has made terms like “social distancing” and “stay at home” part of everyday lingo. Nevin Francis, GfK expert for the TCG industry explains “over the last few months there was a clear demand shift from “want” to “need” at the onset of the pandemic. The ‘at home’ experiences namely ‘office at home’, ‘eat at home’, ‘entertain at home’, and ‘clean at home’ kept the market going. The underlying trends that remained crucial even for these “at-home” experiences were performance, simplification, borderless shopping, and health and hygiene.”

Smartphones

Beyond home appliances, Kenyans have been splurging on computers, laptops, and smartphones.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed that the value of the imports surged by more than half to Sh8.01 billion in four months of the Covid-19 lockdown.

GfK data shows that the technology and office sector grew by a steady 15 percent in value in March and 15 percent in April 2020.

This has been attributed to the fact that at the onset of the Panic phase, the most basic need was for continuity of work and education.