Hisense mulls doubling SA staff as TV sales soar

Las Vegas - Chinese electronics maker Hisense could double its South African staff numbers after becoming the country’s biggest TV seller for the first time in 2016.

This is according to Hisense’s general manager for South Africa Youbo Li who spoke to Fin24 last week along the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Hisense first came to the South African market in 1996. It had a TV making factory in Midrand, Johannesburg but later moved this capacity to a facility in Atlantis, Cape Town.

The company is already the biggest TV seller in China.

But for the period January to November 2016, the company overtook brands such as Samsung and LG in South Africa in terms of total TV units sold, according to local industry research cited by Li.

"Especially this year (2016) our TV market share is already 22%,” Li told Fin24 about the company’s South African market.

"When you're talking about unit share, volume, we are number one already,” he said.

The industry research, which Hisense cannot fully disclose, further indicates that Hisense’s next biggest competitor’s market share has fallen from 33% to 19% from 2015 to 2016.

However, Li said that while Hisense is selling more televisions than any other manufacturer in South Africa, the company is still not tops yet in terms of sales value.

This means that its other competitors are selling televisions at a higher price, but Hisense cautions that it’s still not the cheapest in the South African market.

But amid its total sales volumes growth, Hisense is holding discussions to possibly double or even triple its factory size in country.

"If talking about the staff, definitely we will double as well,” Li told Fin24.

Hisense also intends to launch all its latest televisions, debuted at CES last week, to the South African market, said Li.

Last week, Hisense said it plans to sell a 100-inch, $12 999.99 (R176 000) 4K laser projection TV system later this year.

Hisense lifted the lid on its 100-inch TV projection system in Las Vegas at CES. (Photo: Gareth van Zyl)

Other devices launched by Hisense at CES include the company’s H9D and H9D Plus 4K ULED Smart TV, which feature wide colour gamut, edge-lit local dimming and UHD upscaling.

Concerns over economic growth

Despite its television sales growth in South Africa, Yi told Fin24 that Hisense does have some concerns about the local market.

Forecasters last year said the South African economy would struggle to grow beyond 1%.

Amid this backdrop, the country’s total television market shrank 5% last year, according to Li.

And he said the company is "very concerned" about the impact the country's struggling economy will have on purchasing power.

"The market will basically be shrinking. That is our biggest concern for South Africa,” Li told Fin24.

"But for Hisense South Africa, I think our advantage is we have the investment there and also the brand is growing,” he said.

Hisense is also selling to other African countries to offset a potentially sluggish South African market. In 2015, Hisense further introduced its smartphone brand to South Africa to diversify its product range.

Li didn’t have official numbers on the company’s phone market share in South Africa but he estimated it to be around 6-7% after Hisense sold one million units in 2016.

The company is now targeting selling two million smartphones in South Africa during 2017, Li said.

"It's quite good; we are very happy," Li said.

"That will definitely be our future focus.

"I'm looking for 100% growth, not 200%, 300%, which we can do,” Li told Fin24.

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