Panel beaters

Making a profit in the monitor market might seem like a straightforward process, but it shouldn't be taken for granted. As Channel Middle East reveals, resellers need particular skills at their disposal to survive in this effervescent sector.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  December 6, 2007

The past year has seen an energetic shift in the desktop display market with LCD monitors almost completely phasing out CRT as the end-user screen of choice. The ratio of LCD to CRT in the Middle East has practically caught up with the 80:20 ratio already witnessed in Europe, with LCD now accounting for 70% of the Middle East market in the first half of the year. The revolution that industry analysts were predicting has arrived and monitor vendors are working hard to answer consumers' increasingly specific and complex demands.

This fast developing and innovative sector is benefiting from an increased desire for better aesthetics, higher resolution, larger screen sizes and faster response times. Marketing managers boast of superior ergonomics, HDMI and DVI functionalities, integrated media card readers, high-grade resolution and market growth rates of over 40%. For the channel, this means plenty of opportunities for those committed to the monitor sector.

The level of sales sophistication amongst the sales channels in the region varies greatly and this affects the message and communication the end-user or buyer receives when making that purchasing decision.

Ahmad Hijazi, assistant marketing and sales manager at the monitors division of Samsung Gulf Electronics, claims the sector is profiting from a "fast upgrade" rate coupled with the faster-than-average growth path of the Middle East IT market. That is creating additional opportunities and room for incremental business across many segments. Today's consumers know what they want and are not settling for smaller screen sizes. Increasingly they opt for LCD or plasma over CRT which has been firmly relegated to an entry-level purchase. "This is attributed mainly to the increased awareness of the IT consumer, and the increased importance of more convenience and diversity as far as display options are concerned," stated Hijazi.

General manager at BenQ Middle East and Africa, Manish Bakshi, is also enthused by the commercial possibilities that are still to be cornered in the ever-advancing monitor market. "Increasing demand for high-end models, such as the 19-inch and above, are fast dominating the market and demand for 26-inch and 30-inch models is developing gradually," he revealed. Data from UK-based research house Context Bryan Norris Associates extols the positive upturn in the market.

According to Context, the top six players in the MEAC LCD monitor game all recorded above-average growth (the average being 22%) in the first half of 2007 compared with the same period the year before. By the end of the year, the Middle East should record LCD shipping numbers in the region of five million units. Times, it would seem, are good.

But despite the climax in the replacement cycle, hitting margin targets can be a daunting task for the region's IT dealers. Industry onlookers warn of a dark cloud hovering over the industry as LCD price points continue to drop and competition becomes ever more aggressive. Globally, a slowdown in some key Western European markets, a less buoyant Russian buying policy and uncertainty about sanctions in Iran may well exert some influence over markets in the Middle East.

Even in a market with a supposedly simple business model - receive box, add a mark-up and sell it on - it is important, now more than ever, that resellers and retailers build on the skills and capabilities needed to maximise monitor sales. Ian Gobey, general manager at NEC Display Solutions Middle East, is adamant that the tempo of the channel must be upped and a wider choice of product made available: "I am constantly surprised to learn how passively sales of LCD monitors are approached," he said. "The scope of the choice is normally confined to a narrow band of vendors widely available," he added.

Aaron Fright, MEA regional director at Viewsonic, is just as vocal about the channel's capabilities: "The level of sales sophistication amongst the sales channels in the region varies greatly and this affects the message and communication the end-user or buyer receives when making that purchasing decision," he proclaimed.

"Many resellers sell monitors in a commodity form, which often means that many essential features - such as performance benefits and front-of-screen aspects which may set that particular screen apart from others on the market - do not get thorough coverage during the end-user decision-making process," added Fright.

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