JAPAN: London Olympics failing to deliver much-needed TV sales boost

With only a month to go before the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, the sales boom Japanese companies were hoping the games would create shows little sign of arriving.

Sales of consumer electronics in Japan were down 46.2% last month year-on-year, while TV sales fell even further, down almost three-quarters to levels unseen since the beginning of 2007.

Back in February Japanese economic anaylsts were talking in terms of a Y460bn (£3.bn) boost in consumer spending as a result of the participation of Japanese athletes in the XXX Olympiad, which opens in the London 2012 Olympic stadium on Friday, July 27th.

That spending was expected to be mainly accounted for by extra consumption of electricity, food and drinks, due to the fact that events in London will screen late at night and through into the early hours of the morning in Japan. But the analysts were already suggesting that it would take major success by Japanese Olympians to drive a major boost to TV sales.

Now, with the games four months closer, it looks like Japan's TV retailers are getting a bit desperate to drum up sales, in the light of apparently plummeting interest in buying new TVs.

Just 409,000 TVs were sold in Japan last month, just 35.4% of the volume sold in May 2011 – which, admittedly, was still during the country's digital TV switchover period.

Digital boomtime is over

Now, with the switchover completed – most prefectures stopped analogue transmission last July, with the three most affected by the 11.03.11 earthquake and tsunami finally pulling the plug in March this year – monthly TV sales have fallen to the lowest level since January 2007.

Even sales of Blu-ray and hard-disc recorders – which it had been hoped would again be boosted by that London/Japan Olympic time-difference – are flat: the total TV and video sales figures are down 66.3% year on year, accounting for half of a total consumer electronics spend of Y116bn (just over £900m).

Olympic countdown panic

Some electronics retailers have resorted to Olympic-related advertising in their stores, with a countdown to the London 2012 opening ceremony, but are reporting that those few buyers looking for a TV are more interested in eco credentials and 'smart' functionality.

What's more, Japanese business daily The Nikkei says the manufacturers don't expect European sales to take up the slack, despite Euro 2012 ahead of the Olympics: an official at one TV manufacturer told it 'European consumers have shown weaker interest in purchasing digital consumer electronics than expected.'

London's ready, but... (all pictures: LOCOG)

And it says that demand for panels for TVs shows there's little chance of a late boom in sales in the last four weeks before the games. Panels are typically supplied into the manufacturing process by the big glass companies in Korea and Taiwan two months or so before the products are due to hit shops in Europe, and there simply hasn't been that surge in shipments.

As one official at a panel company told The Nikkei, '"There wasn't any Olympics-related demand; the peak demand period is already over."

The TV companies have moved on, and are already looking to the end-of-year holiday season – traditionally a peak buying time. But they're probably doing so with slightly worried eyes...

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.