The global consumer electronics market is projected to be worth €1.2 trillion by 2018, with the Asia-Pacific region (18%), Middle East (17%) and Africa (17%) expected to grow the fastest (ReportsnReports.com). Demand for PCs, mobiles and other devices is swelling along with the size and aspirations of the middle class in many regions.
Evolution of the electronics sector
Consumer electronics is no longer the sole preserve of the affluent. In 1985, a loaf of bread cost around 33 cents in the UK (BBC Domesday Report), while the world’s first laptop set you back €1,600 (Daily Mail). Three decades on and the former now costs around €1.62 (UK ONS) – about a 391% increase – and a vastly more powerful laptop as little as €300 – more than five times cheaper.
Consider that the average Guatemalan – in only the world’s 120th richest country (IMF data) – owns more than one phone. In Africa mobile adoption is growing at 65% per year (GSMA).
Niche product areas, such as phone cases, old video games and refurbished PCs, are often profitable for smaller players.
Whether you’re selling former display models, or returned, damaged or used goods, the market for refurbished electronics thrives in affluent and poor countries alike. Gartner’s “Secondary PC Market Offers Growing Opportunity” study found that “only one in five PCs suitable for reuse finds its way from a mature to a developing country market, even as demand for secondary PCs outstrips available supply.”
But constantly re-evaluate your market. “The demand for used PCs will remain substantial,” says the report, “even though regional demand patterns will probably shift again as emerging markets mature and new emerging markets join the queue for secondary PCs.”
Note that laptops – a nascent refurbished market in emerging economies – are lighter and therefore cheaper to deliver.
Import tariffs on electronic goods
DutyCalculator.com allows you to calculate import tariffs and VAT on electronic goods. The most punitive rates are found in Panama (15%), Brazil (12%) and Thailand (10%), but because those countries’ indigenous brands often have poor reputations, you’re mostly competing against other importers on a level playing field.
Punitive tariffs are offset in Panama by a 0% sales tax and in Thailand by a fairly low 9% sales tax. Australia charges no import duty at all below the value of €680, while China halved its import tax rate for consumer electronics to 10% in 2012 (according to Reuters).
Local preferences and cross-border demand
Also consider the tastes and spending power and infrastructural constraints of your target markets. For example, the Americans, Greeks and Danish watch the most TV (OECD Communications Outlook report), while the Japanese and Koreans are hi-fi aficionados and peerlessly tech-savvy.
Accounting for €4.4bn of spending, personal electronics is the third biggest cross-border e-commerce category globally, followed by computer hardware (worth €4bn), according to PayPal’s Modern Spice Routes report.
The same report also reveals that UK shoppers prefer to buy electronic goods from abroad. Their biggest overseas markets are the US (accounting for 70% of cross-border sales), China (23%) and Hong Kong (21%). The Brazilians clearly feel poorly served domestically with computer hardware (€520m) and personal electronics (€450m) their two biggest cross-border markets. The US (79%), China (48%) and Hong Kong (17%) are their biggest markets.
Keep pace with evolving technology, regional tastes and domestic competition and you can thrive in what is one of the world’s fastest growing consumer markets.