Lebanon crisis sparks major channel rethink

Lebanon crisis impacting Middle East consumer electronics channel sector.

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By  Michael Thorne Published  August 4, 2006

The consumer electronics channel servicing Lebanon and the Levant has virtually shut down, claimed key industry stakeholders, with Lebanon struggling to cope with the crisis caused by Israeli military bombardments of key infrastructure. The conflict comes at a point when a number of multinational vendors, including Panasonic and Nokia, have made significant investments in Lebanon as a centre for their Levant operations. “The Lebanese market for electronics and home appliances has come to a virtual standstill,” confirmed Avo G.Tutunjian, chief representative of Panasonic Lebanon. “Most retail outlets are closed, especially those in the south and east of Lebanon, as well as in the southern suburbs of Beirut and the surrounding areas. Across the rest of country, some retail outlets are open for only a few hours per day, but sales have been negligible. In addition to this, delivery trucks are having difficulties reaching their destinations due to the ongoing bombing raids”. Panasonic’s infrastructure in Lebanon has so far escaped serious damage, as has that of its key distribution partners, Aces and Sacotel. However, most of the company’s June shipments remain stranded in Greece, Italy or Egypt, because vessels are still being barred from entering Lebanese ports due to the Israeli navel blockade. “Most of our immediate stock orders have been cancelled, or diverted to other markets,” said Tutunjian. Rohit Dev, director of home appliance and consumer electronics manufacturer, Elekta, confirmed that neighbouring markets were being affected by the crisis in Lebanon. “Our distributors have had to relocate to Damascus,” he said. “The Syrian market has also been impacted.” The crisis has the potential to impact other regional economies, as vendors look to dump excess goods on buoyant markets in a bid to clear their stock inventories. Consumer electronics retailers in Dubai have attributed a decline in business of up to 20% to the ongoing conflict, which has impacted the number of visitors travelling to the Emirate for the annual Dubai Summer Surprises retail initiative.

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