2010 in Appliances, Digital and Retail: The Losers

Analysis by Patrick Avenell

Nokia

It has not been a good year for the Finnish mobile phone giant. Whereas 10 years ago, every cool Australian wanted to play Snake on a decidedly futuristic Nokia handset, the manufacturer’s persistence with the now antiquated Symbian OS and its inability to grasp the smartphone mentality has seen it fall well behind fashionable rivals Apple and HTC when the new phone decision is made.

The low point of a low year for Nokia came in October, when the brand refused to answer questions about its strategy despite advertising a press conference as the unveiling of such a new strategy. Instead of answering these pertinent questions, we were presented with the N8 handset, which is more of a camera than a phone. The response from leading local reviewers was withering: “clunky” and “frustrating”, according to Good Gear Guide’s Ross Catanzariti; “half-baked…software”, wrote Joseph Hanlon at Cnet.

If the iPhone 4 antenna debacle proved one thing, it’s that users expect mobile phones to be phones first of all. Nokia’s pedigree has always been in the actual telephone function of the phone, when it returns to its roots is has chance of recovering.

Mark McInnes

Forced to resign in disgrace from his marquee position as CEO of the nation’s most revered department store, McInnes then battled through the dripfeeding of tasteless details about what he is alleged to have said and done to former DJs publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk.

Although McInnes denies much of what Ms Fraser-Kirk alleges, his resignation without challenging the core accusation – that the CEO sexually harassed a junior employee – was damning enough to castigate McInnes, at least in the short term.

As 2011 approaches, McInnes has settled his case with the claimant, watched his Sydney Roosters play in a Grand Final and picked up a new gig on the board of the newly established super turf club. It is actually more than likely that Ms Fraser-Kirk is the true loser from this ordeal.

Retail Margins

There is a retailer out there making just $2.50 on every TV it sells by a certain brand. There’s another retailer that is moving the same number of TVs as last year, but the price is 30 per cent off 2009 rates. And there are predictions that come Boxing Day, the go price on a big screen panel will fall below the significant $500 point.

All this because everyone is obsessed with market share based on volume strategies. Of course, with volume strategies, there is no money to spare for research and development, so the consumer will also lose out in the long term, when the release of new technology stagnates but the price of TVs drops down to $100.

Clive Peeters

The prevailing sentiment concerning Clive Peeters’ collapse was that the company could not recover from Sonya Causer’s $20 million theft. Whilst that no doubt played a part in Clive Peeters’ unfortunate demise, there is also the lingering belief that Clive Peeters’ failure was the first major casualty of a new retail economy: one that values immediacy, efficiency and enormous scale.

It is a great irony that Clive Peeters’ inability to adapt coincided with its admirable, albeit too-little-too-late, foray into online trading. Whilst others fiddled, Clive Peeters actually led the way in the Clicks and Mortar revolution, but it could never have sold enough e-fridges to stave off disaster.

Though not included in the previously published Winners column, Harvey Norman’s purchase of parts of the Clive Peeters business deserves recognition. It wasn’t the rank and file that caused Clive Peeters’ woes, so hopefully that purchase kept some good salespeople in a job.

LG Electronics

A year is a long time in consumer electronics, so it is a touch harsh to judge LG based on one bad month, but March 2010 was a particularly bad month. Forced to recall refrigerators and DVD players due to the risk of minor electric shocks, LG also had to battle against the revelation that it was altering energy efficiency readings through the use of a foreign circumvention device.

The rest of the 2010 was a touch more stable for the Korean supplier, with the release of its Optimus mobile platform a real highlight. With new products now on the way, 2011 should see a big improvement in LG’s fortunes.

Fox Sports

Although it once again led the way with its superb coverage of sporting events, the Government’s decision to maintain the antiquated anti-siphoning list was a blow to the subscription TV network. It has certainly lost its exclusive rights to FIFA World Cup qualifiers and has probably lost other Socceroos games as well. At a time when Australian soccer needs excellent and professional coverage, the Government has abandoned the only TV network that dared provide it.

TiVo

Is the war over? The once ultra-premium PVR/media centre slashed its price and its workforce in 2010, with rumours circulating that it is moving more into content delivery for a fee rather than supplying hardware.

Matt DeMoss

On nearly all counts, the former Garmin sales boss is a Winner, but the decision to spend Christmas in Kansas in subzero temperatures compared to beautiful Balmoral defies belief.

Click here to read about the Winners in 2010.

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