Visitors check out a vacuum cleaner during a home appliance expo in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. (WANG JIANKANG/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Shoppers show increasing demand for high-quality, labor-saving products
Intelligent home appliance products, such as robot vacuum cleaners and smart dishwashers, have seen booming sales and are enjoying rising popularity among Chinese consumers, which industry experts said will likely become a new engine driving consumption growth.
Chinese shoppers have shown increasing demand for high-quality home appliances, fueled by the iteration and upgrade of product functions and technologies, and a series of supportive measures to spur consumption gradually taking effect, said Zhao Meimei, assistant president of Beijing-based consultancy All View Cloud, which focuses on home appliances.
Zhao expects the domestic home appliances market will see recovery of growth this year, which is likely to reach 3 to 4 percent. AVC said revenue of China's home appliances sector stood at 708.1 billion yuan ($96.8 billion) in 2022, down 7.4 percent year-on-year.
Intelligent home appliances saw robust sales during the recently concluded combined Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday. Online retailer Suning.com said sales of smart dishwashers and robot vacuum cleaners surged 154 percent and 83 percent year-on-year, respectively, during the eight-day break, while transaction volume of 80-inch and above televisions skyrocketed more than 200 percent from a year earlier.
Chinese home appliance manufacturers, including Ecovacs Robotics and Midea Group, are eyeing the high-end robot vacuum cleaner sector and beefing up efforts in the research and development of cutting-edge intelligent navigation technology.
Qian Cheng, vice-chairman and CEO of Ecovacs, said the company invested 740 million yuan in R&D last year, an increase of 35 percent year-on-year, adding that he is upbeat on prospects for the domestic robotic vacuum cleaner market.
Currently, Ecovacs owns 300 brick-and-mortar stores across the nation, and it will accelerate steps to expand its offline retail channels and strengthen cooperation with social media platforms. The Suzhou, Jiangsu province-based firm recently unveiled its new series of robot products for floor cleaning, window cleaning and air purification.
Moreover, its sales from overseas markets rose 26.5 percent year-on-year in the first half. The company will also increase investments abroad and optimize its product structure.
Midea has launched a series of floor-cleaning robot products equipped with intelligent navigation technology and high-precision LiDAR, which uses laser light to measure distances and map surroundings, and is commonly used in autonomous driving vehicles.
The market penetration rate of floor-cleaning robots in Chinese urban households has been growing steadily, rising from about 3 percent in 2017 to nearly 10 percent in 2022, according to a research note from investment bank China International Capital Corp Ltd.
Experts said the increasing popularity of intelligent vacuum cleaners featuring voice control and smart navigation functionality has driven global demand for such products.
China has rolled out a raft of measures to restore and expand consumption, including bolstering purchases of green and smart home appliances in rural areas amid the country's broader push to revive recovery momentum and stabilize the economy.
"The smart home appliances industry is now developing by leaps and bounds, thanks to advances in the internet of things, big data and other technologies," said Zhang Yanbin, an independent researcher in the home appliances sector, adding that with people's increasing requirements for more exquisite lifestyles, the artificial intelligence-enabled smart home sector has a promising future.
In addition, AVC said sales revenue of smart dishwashers amounted to 6.72 billion yuan during the January-August period, up 6.5 percent compared with the same period of last year.
Chinese shoppers have attached great importance to safety and health, and prefer to buy premium and intelligent home appliances supported by innovative technologies, which will help further unleash the potential of consumption and bolster the upgrade of the traditional home appliance manufacturing industry, said Liang Zhenpeng, an independent consumer electronics analyst.
"The recovery of consumption has gathered pace and the intelligent home appliances industry will witness a notable rebound this year," said Wang Hongji, general manager of the white goods business department at research company China Market Monitor Co Ltd.
Wang said small and medium-sized home appliance enterprises should improve their competitiveness by launching new, environmentally friendly and intelligent home appliance products to cater to consumer demand, especially in rural areas.