White goods sales match Hanoi's heat

TN News

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The major white goods retailers in Hanoi are thriving, selling air-conditioners, fridges and freezers at an unprecedented rate as the mercury reached record levels for the first time this year.

At the Nguyen Kim store, the shop assistants are flat out demonstrating the merchandise, ringing up the cash registers, and showing customers how to use their purchases.

"The weather is getting worse and worse. Without air-conditioning, it would be hell for my children", says Bui Van Huong as she shops for an air-conditioner at Nguyen Kim.

Because of the stronger demand, some stores are finding themselves short of technicians and delivery people to handle the workload.

"Our sales have soared," says Pico director Hoang Hoc Hai. On some scorching days this month, his store sold over 600 air-conditioners each day, compared to 100 at most in April.

Pham Hung Son of Viet Long says his store has sold so many air-conditioners it has had to recruit more technicians to install them.

Son says the biggest movers are Samsung, LG, Reetech and Panasonic air-conditioners priced at VND5-7 million, along with electric fans made in Vietnam or imported from China and Thailand.

The National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting says temperatures this month have been above normal in most parts of Vietnam, particularly in the northern half.

From May to July, Vietnam's northern half will be hotter for longer than in 2009 and the highest temperatures will exceed the 40 degrees Celsius reached last year, according to the weather man. Already the thermometer has read 40 degrees on some days.

Hoang Hoc Hai of Pico is confident the strong sales will continue as more Vietnamese families can afford to have two or even three air-conditioners in the home these days.

With more heat-waves on the way, Hai thinks sales will peak sometime in the next four weeks.

The boiling weather has caught producers and merchants off guard. Many were afraid to stock up and perhaps be left with a stack of unsold merchandise at the end of summer, so many brands and types of appliances have sold out already or simply not been available in the first place.

Their reluctance to commit themselves early is understandable given the poor sales at this time last year.

Interestingly, prices have not increased. Hai says this is because only a few product lines are scarce and overall the white goods market can handle the demand.

It helps that Pico signed its supply contracts with the producers well ahead of time so that it could keep the retail prices unchanged.

Viet Long too is keeping its prices the same, according to Son, who says the important thing for a major store like his is to stay in the customers' good books. To this end, Viet Long knocked VND800,000 off the cost of installation for buyers of air-conditioners from May 22-27.

While business at the major retailers is going gangbusters, the smaller home appliance stores have the same low number of customers as they did 12 months ago, and a large inventory in consequence.

Nguyen Thi Ha, who owns a shop in Bach Mai Street, says she has many more electric fans, air-conditioners, refrigerators and such in stock compared to last year, and little of it is moving.

Ha's view is that shoppers trust the big retailers to carry only genuine brands of quality white goods and are wary of the smaller shops, where they usually restrict their purchases to small-ticket items like electric fans.

Still, Ha is optimistic of the better days ahead. "I think our sales will improve a lot as the weather gets hotter," she said confidently.

The Asia Fan Company is doing well from the heat too and says its fan sales are up 45-50 percent, most noticeably the more expensive models. The unexpected surge in sales of the pricier fans has made them scarce in the shops at times, according to the company.

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