Electronics business feels pandemic pinch despite huge washing machine sales

Mostafizur Rahman | Published: 23:16, Jul 03,2020


Salespersons conduct their duties at a showroom of electronics products at Shyamoli in the capital on Friday. The overall business of electronic appliances is very poor due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, but huge sales of washing machines amid the pandemic are the only bright side. — Sony Ramany

The overall business of electronic appliances is very poor due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, but huge sales of washing machines amid the pandemic are the only bright side.

Officials of the country’s leading electronics brands said that people were now getting more interested in online shopping, which was also offering a ray of hope for electronics makers in the pandemic.

Sales of washing machines have increased sharply after the coronavirus outbreak as maids are not allowed to work at houses on concern of coronavirus infection, they said.

The country’s electronics businesses usually sell refrigerators, air conditioners, microwaves, and televisions heavily during the summer season and Eid festivals.

But, this year the scenario has completely changed due to the countrywide shutdown enforced by the government to ensure physical distancing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the electronics outlets in the country reopened on May 10 after keeping their shutters closed since March 26 in line with the government’s direction.

Although the government extended the general holidays to May 30, it allowed the reopening of businesses from May 10 on condition that they would follow health safety measures.

Although the business situation has been improving to some extent in recent weeks, the sale losses incurred during the shutdown period could be hard to recover, the officials said.

Walton group executive director Uday Hakim told New Age that sales of washing machines rose sharply due to an absence of housemaids.

But, the overall business situation is very poor compared with that in the previous years, he said.

‘But, things are now improving, especially outside the capital city,’ said Uday.

Some lost sales might be recovered during upcoming Eid-ul-Azha.

The company is focusing on online sales as people are staying home to prevent infection.

The company’s online sales soared by five times while the presence of customers at its outlets was very slim during the shutdown.

AKM Saiful Islam, manager of LG-Butterfly showroom at Begum Rokeya Sarani of Mirpir, said that the sharp rise in sales of washing machines was the only bright side of electronics business amid the pandemic.

But, the overall business scenario is devastating as people are more concerned about the bare essentials amid the pandemic, Saiful said.

Salman A Khan, head of products at Rangs Industries Limited, said that sales of washing machines doubled in recent days.

Besides, sales of trimmers and shavers have also increased recently compared with that in the previous years.

However, sales of the other electronics products are very low due to the coronavirus-induced concerns and shutdown. Outlets were shut from March 26 to May 9 that weighed on the business, Salman said.

After the reopening of outlets on May 10, the presence of customers is minimal compared with that in the same period in the previous years, he said.

The pandemic has resulted in a cut in the demand for the other electronics products.

Salman said that his company usually generated 45-50 per cent of its total revenue through sales during two Eid festivals and the summer season, but this year the company would see a significant drop in sales during the festivals and the season.

He said that the brand was trying to attract customers to online purchase through giving various offers including discounts, free home delivery and free products.

Online sales of products have gradually been increasing as customers are now more interested in online platform amid the pandemic.

The biggest fear is a decline in the purchasing power of people, which would have a negative impact on the sector over a broader timeframe, Salman said.

Shahnaj Rahman, manager of Singer showroom at Banasree of Rampura, said that the showroom had sold its entire stock of washing machines and had to make a requisition for more.

Besides, customers are buying some air conditioners and refrigerators, but the quantity is lower than that of the previous years, she said.

KMG Kibria, head of brand and communication of Minister-Myone Group, said that usually April and May were the peak time for selling refrigerators and air conditioners, but in the two months of this year the company saw a sharp fall in sales of these products.

The brand is also trying to attract customers to its online service with a number of offers.

Bangladesh Electronics Merchants Association president Sanaullah Shahid said that all sales centres had remained closed from March 25 to May 9.

The closure is likely to result in severe financial losses for the country’s electronics makers, he said.

Bangladesh Refrigerator Manufacturers and Exporters Association secretary general Zahid Alam said that around 45 per cent of the total sales of refrigerators was done during the summer season and Eid-ul-Azha.

Electronics are not ‘must have’ products for customers, he said, adding that the companies were selling products with many offers to survive in the crisis.

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