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WASHING GIZMO WAR TURNS DIRTY

Government, retailers and manufacturers turn on Sony
Dateline: 1 December 2009

UK retailers ganged up on Sony just in time for the Christmas season yesterday. Claiming that Sony’s new ClothesMan II product would seriously stall sales of washing machines, tumble driers, steam irons and all sorts of washing materials, retailers have barred sales of Sony’s products until “at least March next year”.

John French, CE of Europe’s largest retail chain TesGroup said “Apart from the obvious impact on sales, these products have not shown that they are safe around the home. We have also received considerable pressure from our suppliers that they need to understand the impact of this new cleaning trend on jobs in the manufacturing industry”.

Prime Minister Jeffrey Archer said that this ‘window of contemplation’ on the new technology might go against EU attitudes but Britain’s first priority was to protect jobs in the manufacturing and retail industries in these times of economic uncertainty. “We don’t want to rush into these unproven products until we understand the full impact on consumers and the economy”.

In the meantime, sales of Sony’s ClothesMan products continued to soar with on-line retailers world-wide. Amazon reported the biggest one-week sales volumes in history through their on-line electronics store.

(Read the full story in the detailed Analysis/Synthesis section – for subscribers only)


ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

This is an update newsflash on a previous MindBullet.

Sony’s announcement of their in-cupboard cleaning device, ClothesMan II, earlier this year has certainly set the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons.
Sony’s new products have changed the name of the game in washing: compared to traditional washing machines they use far fewer raw materials (steel, plastics), fewer resources (especially water and electricity) and almost completely kill the market for washday additives (such as washing powders and fabric softeners).

The washing machine, tumble drier and steam-iron manufacturers saw the future of their industries take a nose-dive. “This is not a just a fall in sales volumes – this is the equivalent of a dead cat bounce” chirped a Hoover executive. “There is no way we can can compete by making our products better or cheaper. This is the end of the line for some of the most familiar household appliances”.
FMCG companies such as Unilever, dominant in cleaning materials and additives, saw it as a significant dent to revenues in the long-term but felt that “we can innovate our way out of this one the way we have in the past. We will follow consumer demands whatever they may be”.
Retailers saw a massive (potential) dent in revenues – replacing a washing machine, tumble dryer and steam iron combination with just a tiny in-cupboard device weighing less than 50 grams – at less than 10% of the cost.
The electricity industry felt the strategic impact too. “These devices demand very low energy levels (vs traditional appliances) and the energy can in fact be generated in the home” said Philips R&D executive, Jan Moolman. “We plan to have home generators, tiny fuel cells, available on the market within 12 months to power this and other new service appliances”.
As a result of anticipated lower demand for commodities in future the price of steel fell sharply on the London Metals Exchange, and OPEC called for a drop in production to halt the falling oil price.
The UK government took the initiative to protect jobs in these manaufacturing industries and ganged up with manufacturers and large retailers to delay the inevitable.
Consumers quickly turned to on-line retailers to provide their needs. Amazon recorded their biggest one-week sales volume in history.
Markets brought to a critical tipping point, as a result of just one tiny new appliance from Sony. Where will it all end.

Links to related stories

Warning: Hazardous Thinking at Work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer. © Public domain image.

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