LG aims to double sales in Japan with new flat-screens
Poster-thin OLED TVs to improve brand image of South Korean technology group
REI NAKAFUJI and KOTARO HOSOKAWA, Nikkei staff writers
TOKYO -- South Korea's LG Electronics wants to burnish its brand in Japan, and so the company plans a sales coup as its new ultrathin high-definition televisions debut in the country early next month.
"We wish to double the number of units sold [in Japan] in 2017 compared with 2016," Lee Yin-gyu, president of LG Electronics Japan, told The Nikkei.
The organic light-emitting diode flat-screens hitting the streets in April come in three series and four models. The 65-inch model of the OLED W7P series is 3.9mm thick from the back to the screen, so installing the set is not unlike hanging a picture or poster on the wall.
"It is a design that's made possible by OLED," Lee said. "It is the ultimate TV for those who seek simplicity matching with the interior decorating."
LG used the latest panel technology to boost the brightness 25% compared with previous OLED TVs. That model will be priced around 1 million yen ($8,825) in Japan. Unlike previous models that debuted first in the U.S. and South Korea, the W7P will go on sale simultaneously worldwide.
When LG launched its previous lineup in April 2016, the company forecast global sales of 1 million units that year. "It went more or less as planned," Lee said. "We will further expand [beyond that goal] in 2017."
Japan will be key to fulfilling those gains. Though Japanese sales are fewer compared with the robust numbers coming out of the West and South Korea, Lee said the LG brand is becoming better recognized in Japan, thanks partly to electronics volume sellers setting up a section dedicated to LG products.
LG unveiled the W7P in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the biggest international expo of its kind. The group is betting that this upmarket TV will improve the company's brand image, especially in Japan.
LG sells home appliances everywhere in Asia amid healthy earnings, but must go head-to-head with strong Japanese rivals in their home market. "There is the impression [in Japan] that Chinese and South Korean products are cheaper but inferior," Lee said.
To shed that image, the company started selling the LG Styler clothes cleaner in January at Tsutaya Electrics, a full-service home appliances emporium in the Tokyo area. The LG Styler removes both microbes and wrinkles, among other functions. LG will roll out the appliance at volume sellers in the future.
"Japan is a complicated market that requires product differentiation," Lee said. OLED TVs will be no different. "We will not only pursue earnings, we will strengthen" the lineup to enhance the company's brand.
OLED televisions account for only about 1% of the entire market by value. "We welcome new entrants for the sake of market expansion," Lee said. But to make OLED sets more accessible, prices for panels will have to come down.
LG Display currently controls a virtual monopoly on OLED TV panels, but the company is still improving production yield. The loss of materials during manufacturing is one of the biggest factors elevating costs. The panel maker plans the local currency equivalent of 1 trillion yen in capital investment in South Korea over a few years that began in 2016, but those funds might go mainly toward mass production of smartphone panels for Apple.