CES 2021 upgrades to TVs, laptops aimed at extending stay-at-home sales boom

China 2673 Cons. Discr. - Durables 366 Info Tech - Tech Hardware 643 Japan 530 Taiwan 167 U.S. 4748

The annual CES electronics trade show can be relied upon to provide upgrades to existing products and occasionally new categories altogether. As discussed in prior years’ research these often come with complex supply chains and prolonged delays as products are completed and holiday shopping seasons approach.

This year is a virtual show, leading major firms including Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft to only have minor presences – last year there were 4,400 exhibitors, this year there will by 1,800. Nonetheless, there is no lack of forward thinking products, including a drink fetching robot, an IoT dog door, a COVID safe doorbell, and a robotic, headless cat.

Among the major categories though, televisions including HDMI 2.1 and 8K technology are looking to capitalize on interest in the new generation of video game consoles that will support those technologies. Shipments of consoles exploded in the end of 2020, with imports of consoles increasing 123.2% year over year in the three months to Nov 30.

While those consoles themselves are not the stars of the show, accessories are likely an area that electronics companies try to capitalize on, like Otterbox’s Xbox controller phone clip and Google and Nvidia announcing the integration of streaming services with TV’s.

Consoles ramp up for new generation holidays

Chart shows U.S. imports of videogame consoles by month. Source: Panjiva

Television announcements include advanced OLED TV’s from LG, 8k Mini LED TV’s from TCL, and Sony TV’s with built in AI engines. Samsung emphasised style, unveiling a slim bezel TV that looks surprising like a picture frame. There was already an apparent surge in shipments of televisions in 2020 due to pandemic-related stay-at-home and entertainment substitute spending.

Panjiva data for companies importing televisions and monitors by sea to the U.S. shows major importers TCL and Element both increased associated imports by106.0% and 252.0% year over year respectively in Q4’20. Imports linked to Samsung Electronics meanwhile rose by 55.0% indicating all three companies managed to scale up production in response to pandemic-related demand.

Television makers meet pandemic demand as new consoles arrive

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of televisions and monitors by consignee. Source: Panjiva

Major laptop manufacturers‘ announcements include Microsoft refreshing their Surface Pro line, convertible laptop/tablets from Lenovo, and convertibles from HP. On the gaming front, Nvidia announced updated laptop graphics cards, and Asus pitched the ‘world’s fastest’ laptop display. As was the case with televisions, laptop shipments surged on the back of work- and learn-from-home spending. One company, Arcade1Up, may be hoping to capitalize on this with a table that plays digital versions of board games on its surface. 

Panjiva data indicates that the momentum of laptop imports may be shifting back to Asia, with imports from Taiwan, Japan, and mainland China increasing by 56.8%, 45.3%, and 35.2% year over in October and November. 

Laptop imports continue to power upwards

Chart segments U.S. imports of laptop computers by origin. Source: Panjiva

While announcements like rollable phone displays from LG and TCL, drones designed for aerial photography from Sony, and a GM Cadillac electronic air taxi all showed some of the wilder technology ambitions in the COVID era, at the more mundane end of the spectrum appliance manufacturers also unveiled products to enhance kitchens. 

LG announced voice activated refrigerator doors and an oven that can air fry and sous vide, while Samsung announced a refrigerator line that allows bespoke customization of it’s modular doors. For the sweet lovers, a product called ColdSnap allows you to make ice cream on demand – like a Keurig does with coffee. 

Panjiva data on ovens and refrigerators show a marked uptick in imports of those appliances in the second half of the year, which the major manufacturers are likely well aware of as noted in Panjiva research of Dec 17. 

While CES usually represents the highest end of the consumer electronics spectrum, brands are likely hoping that the aspirational products on display will generate conversions from pent-up pandemic demand. The alternative may be manufacturers stuck with large inventories in 2021 as seaborne imports of ovens increased by 38.8% year over year in Q4, matched by a 62.0% year over year increase in refrigerator imports.

Appliances heat up in late 2020

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of home appliances on a monthly and three-month average basis. Source: Panjiva

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