Sharp brand outpaces ‘Mickey Mouse’ rivals, claims UK MD

Matthew Lang, managing director of Vestel UK, has revealed plans to drive demand for the company’s Sharp Home Appliances brand by targeting independent retailers.

He also claimed the Sharp brand was “more powerful” than some of its “Mickey Mouse” competitors.

Speaking to ERT’s sister title kbbreview at electronics show IFA in Berlin, Mr Lang said Sharp had grown by 50 per cent in the UK over the past year, boosted by new deals with AO.com and Currys.

But the plan now, he said, was to turn Sharp’s attention to independent stores.

“There’s still a long way to go in the UK but we’re making ground,” he explained. “We’ve gained a couple of big accounts – the boys that make a difference in white goods in the UK are now listing our products. That’s the recipe for success.

“In order to get the public interested in the Sharp brand again there needs to be mass distribution. Use the mass channel, then the independents have got something to work with. They’re not going to be interested in something with no traction.

“[Sister brand] Toshiba was the first priority and Sharp should be the same in the near future. Sharp lends itself to those independent channels because of the quality the brand conjures up.”

Mr Lang admitted the MDA market remained crowded but claimed Sharp’s credentials stood out over its competitors.

“What benefits do any of those brands out there have?” he said. “A lot of them are fairly Mickey Mouse brands. I think Sharp is a much more powerful brand than a lot of those out there.”

Asked if Brexit uncertainty was undermining consumer confidence, Mr Lang admitted: “Everyone’s nervous. The market’s not performing fantastically. For several years the white goods market has been growing and now it’s plateaued and we’re seeing small month-on-month declines.

“Brexit is front of mind. Households are uncertain so they put off big investment plans, as will retailers.

“But if there is a dip in demand that will create pent-up demand that will be released when things become clearer.

“We don’t see any major impact because a lot of our products are made in Turkey. The Turkish-British trade agreement is a priority for the UK government that they’ll negotiate whatever happens. There will be a legal framework in place to trade with Turkey so we’re not anticipating major disturbances.”

Asked what would happen in the event of a no-deal outcome, Mr Lang said: “The British authorities ought to be quite pragmatic about letting goods come into the country. For Sharp, we keep stock so we can take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth supply of products if Brexit creates confusion. We’d have to stock a bit more than we would normally.

“We are planning and looking at what the possible scenarios could be. For me, as an importer into the UK, the main problem will be getting the product into the country. So if we can build up a buffer of stock then hopefully things will sort themselves out. It’s much more difficult for British exporters than British importers.

“But for anybody to predict how the UK or the EU will finalise that negotiation is almost impossible. Most negotiations come to a conclusion in the last seconds of the last minute so we won’t know anything until March 30.”

Mr Lang’s comments came as Sharp unveiled its innovative new range of cooking and laundry products at IFA.

Claiming to make traditional housework routines “a thing of the past”, main highlights include the new 1-Touch Pro Series 15-programme washing machine, which automatically calculates and sets the ideal temperature and cycle duration, maintains perfect water and energy levels and selects the correct amount of detergent and softener.

Also unveiled was the 1-Touch Pro 15-place setting dishwasher, the Easy Care tumble dryer series – allowing the user to dry the weekly wash in just 29 minutes – and the Smart IntelliDos 10kg washing machine, which is not only designed to re-order preferred detergent and softener from Amazon but to calculate the right dosage for up to 20 washes.

Other innovations included the VacPac Pro fridge freezer, featuring an airtight vacuum sealer for food, and the AirStream five-shelf 73-litre oven, allowing multiple dishes to be shelf levels.

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