Christmas preparations

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First, a word of caution but also of encouragement from the leading retail analyst Dr Tim Denison, director of knowledge management at SPSL: “There is certain inevitability in the toughening conditions confronting retailers, but there is no industry sector more irrepressible in this country than retailing.
Christmas 2007 more than any other of recent times will be all about getting the basics of product, value and service right, delivering what the customer demands, and executing it that little bit better than before.”

Seeing is believing – the TV scene

With flat panel TVs topping the CE bestsellers list in 2007 and currently accounting for almost 90% of the TV market by volume, there is no doubt that the Christmas period will be an excellent excuse for those who still don’t own a flat panel to treat themselves and their family to one or more sets.

However, the focus now is on HDTV. Graham North, UK commercial director at Humax, comments: “The emphasis on High Definition (HD) ready televisions is growing and it is becoming difficult to sell a TV that no longer complies with this feature. The increasing likelihood of the BBC launching its evening HD broadcast in the near future will only serve to fuel the demand for HD-ready televisions. Hard Drive storage will become a much more important factor when choosing a television or set-top box. Earlier this year, Humax was the first manufacturer in the UK to launch a TV with built in digital TV recorder (DTR) that incorporates the Freeview Playback standard.”

Humax has recently extended its IDTV range to include 19in and 22in LCD models, which come with the new Humax Advanced Sound System, and are designed for second rooms, such as the bedroom, dining room or kitchen. Both models also feature alarm clock and snooze features. Humax has also recently launched new LP32-TDR1 and LP40-TDR1 TVs, which come with Freeview Playback software as standard, which includes schedule tracking – a handy feature for the festive season.

In time for Christmas Hitachi will be launching its X series IPS Alpha technology and 100Hz processing range of full HD flat panel TVs (including a 50in and 60in Plasma) and the world’s first ever Blu-ray camcorder. Both will be supported by advertising in consumer magazines. Also new PoS material will be provided to the dealers. Hitachi is also looking to creating eye-catching window displays in selected high streets.

Meanwhile Philips advises the customers to enhance their Christmas viewing experience with its recently launched Aurea which will receive special seasonal support. Aurea develops the Ambilight concept by adding a light frame that directly connects with and enhances the TVs pictures. A series of Power LEDs allow light to be projected both backwards and forwards – illuminating either all or part of the Active Frame – matching the colour, intensity and dynamics of the on-screen image. Aurea is available as a 42-inch model, and the 1080p Full HD LCD panel is equipped with Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD Engine.

DAB scene

The DAB radio sector, which over the last two Christmas seasons proved to be the favourite gift, will be particularly strong at Christmas, with leading manufacturers launching special offers for both consumers and retailers. The latest DAB developments focus on technology convergence. “We have already seen this in other categories such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and mobile phones. There is also an increasing trend towards integrating software features into consumer electronics and the ability to access music over different media. And as always, quality and hi-end design, which look good in the home environment, remain important,” comments Katie Richards, marketing manager at Intempo.

As a result, Intempo with the RDI it will be converging DAB digital radios with its speaker-docks to produce the iPod docking station and speaker system with built-in DAB radio. “The aim is to make DAB compelling for the iPod generation, letting them access it through a familiar medium, MP3 speaker-docks,” adds Kate.

Pure’s response to this technology convergence is the Chronos iDock which combines iPod docking with DAB and a variety of bedside features, which will appeal to different generations of users and should prove a popular Christmas gift.

Also Roberts has launched a new iPod accessory that allows the UK’s 13 million iPod users to tune into DAB and FM radio via the iPod. The ‘robi’ is a discreet DAB radio with a wired remote that plugs into the iPod allowing users to listen to DAB and FM radio through the iPod. As well as operating the radio function, the wired remote allows users to control music playback, adjust volume and skip forward/back within a playlist. So with robi the iPod becomes a personal DAB/FM radio.

Another new technological development which is going to be heavily promoted over Christmas is DAB’s entry into the Internet radio field which will give customers instant access to over 5,000 radio stations worldwide, for which many ex-pats have been impatiently waiting, together with those wishing to brush up their language skills.

Intempo’s Christmas offer will be the GX01 which combines an Internet radio and music player. The GX01 can be used wirelessly over a home network or directly via the radio’s Ethernet socket, without switching on a computer. It also allows users to play their own music through a memory stick via the radio’s USB port or stream it wirelessly from a PC.

Meanwhile, Roberts’ Wi-Fi Internet Radio and Media Player, requires only Wi-Fi or a broadband router connection for the radio to tune itself to the radio stations from around the world. It can also play personal music collections from a PC or an MP3 player.

For the growing group of green consumers who are expecting more power efficient CE products, PURE has introduced new products which belong to the EcoPlus family, such as TEMPUS-1S, equipped with natural sounds – a feature with Christmas appeal, and EVOKE-1S. All EcoPlus products are designed and manufactured to minimise their environmental impact with reduced power consumption, use of materials from recycled and sustainable sources and optimum packaging size for transport efficiency.

Roberts also has a very special Christmas treat for the females of the family in the shape of the third model in the Cath Kidson/Revival DAB series, which comes in the ‘washed rose’ vintage print which fits well with the 1950s design of Roberts flagship product. “Sales of the previous two designs far exceeded our expectations and were big sellers in the run up to Christmas 2005 and 2006. We’re clearly onto a winner so let’s keep the momentum going; we are delighted to extend the range with this new design for Christmas 2007,” commented Leslie Burrage, Roberts chief executive.

Every little helps

During Christmas many people will be using electronic and electrical appliances, it’s worth, therefore, reminding them about products which reduce standby energy waste. “Whether it’s leaving the Christmas tree lights on to avoid crawling around on hands and knees to switch them off, or forgetting to turn the TV off standby, Standby Buster can help lower ever-increasing CO2 emissions and save consumers money with all the ease of using a remote control to ‘unplug’ electrical equipment from any convenient location. Not only is Standby Buster great for the environment, it’s easy to use, requires no installation and consumers don’t have to wait long to reap the financial rewards; with the money saved on their electricity bill,” suggests David Watson, marketing director of Ivy Energy Saving, the manufacturer of Standby Buster.

Seasonal magic in the kitchen
The full roast

With café culture firmly established in Britain and recent statistics showing that Brits drink around 70 million cups of coffee a day, a coffee machine is an ideal Christmas gift. Since not everyone yet has the budget and conviction to invest in a built-in coffee machine, the manufacturers are offering a very wide range of free-standing products.

For example, De’Longhi, one of the leaders in this market, offers coffee novices the easy to use De’Longhi Bar 14 (£54.99), which creates a perfect espresso. For the more adventurous person you could recommend the EC300M (£119.99) which uses Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods or ground coffee and has a 15 bar pump system. For those who like their products stylish, compact but powerful, the De’Longhi Nespresso Lattissima (£299.99) is the ideal choice. Available in two finishes, cream or stainless steel, the Latissima uses the Nespresso capsules. Next comes the Magnifica (£699.99) for the cappuccino lover. This bean-to-cup machine creates perfect frothy cappuccinos and authentic Italian espressos. At the top of the range is the PrimaDonna (£999.99) which memorises user’s favourite cappuccino, café latté, latté macchiato or espresso ensuring they receive the perfect Italian coffee with just one touch.

Siemens has a similar product architecture of its coffee makers range; with its price bracket ranging from £119 for TK30 Nespresso to the new top-of-the range bean-to-cup model TK69 at £799.

In time for Christmas there will be two fully automatic models in the bean-to-cup sector: the new silver model TK54 Surpresso Compact (at £399) and the piano-black TK69 Superpresso Caffe Nero at £799.

The Siemens Nespresso range has now been expanded to four models. The entry level model is the TK30 Essenza, designed for Espresso and Lungo capsules. This compact new model has a unique cubic design to sit neatly on the worktop. The three existing Siemens Nespresso models are still available, namely models TK50 Pelican & TK70 Romeo at £269 and £449 respectively, plus the luxury Porsche Design TK911 at £699.

For a large number of people who drink instant coffee but would prefer it in the form of a frothy cappuccino, Breville has the Breville Instant Cappuccino Maker, which features a self-clean function to ensure maximum ease and minimum hassle while preparing the favourite hot drink.

Meanwhile, Bosch has joined hands with Brita to ensure that every cup of coffee has the best taste possible. The Bosch Private Collection coffee maker is the first filter coffee maker on the UK market with an integrated Brita Maxtra filter. “Great-tasting coffee depends not just on the beans and the grind.” explained Bosch product category manager Jane Lee, “but on the one essential ingredient for any drink: water.”

But let’s not forget that the Brits are tea drinkers by heritage, and there are still many people who wake up to a cuppa. For them Micromark has launched (and will be promoting on the radio and in national print at Christmas) an innovative tea maker – Tea Express – which combines a rapid water boiling facility, an integrated AM/FM radio, illuminated LCD clock and even a reading light.

Food preparation

The last year has seen an resurgence of interest in bread makers, and in response to this demand Morphy Richards has launched new Accents Breadmaker. It allows users to personalise the baking process by selecting the length of kneading, rising, baking and keeping the bread warm.

Small appliances selected for Christmas gifts have to stand out from the crowd in terms of design and professional quality. It is not surprising that Russell Hobbs has launched its new Marco Pierre White by Russell Hobbs range as its key gifting line this Christmas and plans to support it with a television and online advertising both pre and post Christmas. The collection – with a stainless steel finish, includes handblender and mixer, juicer, electric carving knife and mini food processor. At the same time the company released a new Temptation Cocktail Drinks Fountain which can become the focal point of any party.

Also for the Christmas season Home-tek International Ltd has extended its Ainsley Harriott range of kitchen appliances with the Professional Food Mixer that includes two innovative design features – a rotating bowl and an automatic cord rewind. The rotating stainless steel bowl ensures that all of the ingredients are effortlessly mixed at whatever speed is chosen. The cord rewind facility allows the user to select the desired length of cord from the socket to the worktop.

The little helper

The Christmas season could be good time to introduce your customers to the Roomba 500 Series. After the Christmas dinner when pressing the TV remote is the only form of exercise anyone is willing to undertake, launching this vacuuming robot on crumbs and debris left from Christmas gift opening could be an attractive option. The Roomba 500 Series has a heavy duty design for durability and easy servicing. It has anti-tangle technology so it can extract itself from rug tassels and cord tangles. Its light tough intelligent sensing system can detect when Roomba is approaching a wall or obstacle and automatically slows the robot down for a gentler impact and quieter operation. The new mobility platform allows Roomba to travel on thicker carpets, climb higher thresholds and move between floor surfaces.

The new 500 series is being supported by a national advertising campaign including the weekend press and home interest magazines. A Roomba promotional package including a free Roomba worth £199.99 is available for independents.

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