2010 in Appliances, Digital and Retail: The Winners

Analysis by Patrick Avenell

Apple

Although 2010 saw the Cupertino based vertical giant transform more into a cult than ever before, 2010 was undoubtedly the year of the iPad and iPhone 4. Throw into that mix the release of two new Macbook Airs, and Apple had a winning cache of products. The release of The Beatles catalogue on iTunes was important to them then to the hoards of  fans who had already downloaded those songs for free, but that was just a blip on an otherwise faultless release schedule.

Not everything went Apple’s way, however, with Steve Jobs and co having to battle a number of PR disasters throughout the year. The first was the leaking of the iPhone 4 to Gizmodo US, which resulted in the very unedifying ransacking of a journalist’s house in California. Next was the developing multiple suicide scandal at Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer of Apple hardware. And then, when the iPhone 4 was finally released, Jobs arrogantly prevaricated before delivering a case free of charge to disgruntled users.

Still, in a year when many of Apple’s rivals battled similar obstacles without any successes, Apple proved that when you have desirable products, the public will forgive such transgressions. There is no forgiveness, however, for Apple’s shameless product placement on Modern Family, which airs on a US TV station wholly owned by Disney, of which Jobs is the largest individual shareholder.

Fisher & Paykel and Haier

A marriage made in Sino heaven? Before this union was officially celebrated in Hangzhou, Current.com.au visited the Forbidden City, where for centuries Chinese royalty staged decadent wedding ceremonies. How appropriate, considering this union of New Zealand’s most iconic brand and China’s biggest manufacturer was first greeted with raised eyebrows instead of raised champagne glasses.

This year was the first full calendar year of the union, and the impact of Haier's 20 per cent cornerstone stake is beginning to resonate. The Chinese brand has re-established itself in the Oceania market, with Fisher & Paykel’s mature logistical base providing the Chinese brand with much needed scale. Up in the Orient, F&P is now a premium, aspirational brand, being distributed in the biggest country in the world by its biggest appliance supplier and second biggest retailer.

And a lot of that F&P debt has been paid down too.

HTC

HTC is the exact opposite of Apple in the mobile phone game: instead of telling the world that one phone is right for all of them, HTC has released a swathe of handsets suited to all different types of users. What’s more, HTC also uses different operating systems, with its Android models setting the benchmark and its WinMo7 units making the best of a less than perfect OS.

It might be a minor point for some, but the decision to individually brand each handset with an abstract noun is also a masterstroke. Unlike Nokia, which persists in using alphanumerical branding that no consumer could possible distinguish, HTC has an amusing sobriquet for each release: Mozart, Aria, Wildfire, Desire, Legend, Hero et al. The only time HTC erred in 2010 was granting the worst network in Australia exclusivity over its best phone. Otherwise, Bravo!

Samsung

The Korean powerhouse came in to 2010 with a number of clear goals: be first to market in 3D, dominate the AV category, make significant inroads in whitegoods. Check, check, check.

From the surprise announcement at its 3D TV launch that Samsung would be on shelves that week to the establishment of a competitive appliance business, Samsung has been quintessentially Korean in its astute efficiency in succeeding.

In a year when the two Korean nations moved closer to a resumption of war on the peninsula, the two Korean brands decided their battle, with Samsung convincingly relegating LG into also-ran status.

And not only did Samsung triumph in its core categories, it was also first to market with a viable Android tablet.

Ruslan Kogan

Plenty of people hate the man. Plenty of people hate that Current.com.au writes about him. Plenty of people hate his success. And that success is why he is a Winner. Whilst traditional retailers grapple with the online threat, Kogan has taken that abstraction and made it his cash cow. Forget whether the products are good or not (and opinions differ) and just remember how significantly he has shaken up this industry.

When asked why Current.com.au covers Kogan so much, my answer is simple: what he stands for is the single biggest threat to this industry. Not covering what he is up to is tantamount to not reporting on Germany in the days before World War II. If the industry is to survive, those that make the decisions need to know everything about the man and its methods.

On a personal level, Kogan is also very charismatic, open and amusing: three attributes that few others in or outside this industry possess.

Thorn Group

In a tough year for retail, the Thorn Group managed to increase its market share, achieve a credit licence and significantly improve its share price. Managing director John Hughes certainly deserves to enjoy his turkey tomorrow.

Canon

One in every three dollars spent on cameras in Australia is on a Canon model. And this in what is an incredibly over supplied category.

Vivo International

A win for the little guys, with Vivo now exporting to Israel, Fiji and New Zealand. Plus, the local office has a brand new office in Sydney to service these orders.

Angry Birds

The most ubiquitous app of 2010 was also one of the most addictive. The crack cocaine of commuters nationwide, Angry Birds certainly proves that a simple idea and some creative minds can reap big rewards.

Dyson

A leading value brand in two antipodean categories: floorcare and cooling.

Click here to read about the Losers in 2010.

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