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Korean tech giants rethink full-fledged participation in IFA

Visitors view a Samsung TV at the City Cube hall of Messe Berlin during the 2019 IFA. (Samsung Electronics)
Visitors view a Samsung TV at the City Cube hall of Messe Berlin during the 2019 IFA. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics -- the two biggest tech firms in South Korea -- are likely to scale back their participation in IFA 2020, amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, according to industry sources Sunday.

However, the two firms have not yet finalized their plans to participate in the largest tradeshow for home appliances in Europe, slated for September.

The IFA 2020 will be held onsite from Sept. 3-5 at the Messe Berlin exhibition hall as usual, the show’s organizer announced earlier this month.

However, while it will be open for 5,000 industry officials who have received invitations, including 800 journalists, public access has been restricted this year.

Samsung used to take the biggest space of the German exhibition building, City Cube Berlin, showcasing all its products ranging from latest TV lineups and home appliances to mobile products. But operation of the space is unclear this year.

Due to the reduced size of the exhibition and restricted public access this year, the Korean companies are questioning the effectiveness of joining the event in terms of marketing and costs.

“The final decision on IFA participation hasn’t been made, and the company is reviewing various options,” said a Samsung official. “Regardless of Samsung’s participation, there is very low possibility of bringing a Korean press group to the show.”

Some industry insiders say that Samsung and LG would scale back their exhibitions and focus on meetings with European business partners.

Despite rosy forecasts by IFA about recovery in the consumer electronics market after the COVID-19 pandemic in the second half of the year, hoping the trade show serves as a turning point for the industry, the current market situation is negative.

“Not only China, several major economies including the US, South Korea, Japan, and Italy are also under threat of COVID-19 outbreak and so is their consumer electronics industry,” noted a report by Research and Markets. “Retail shops and showrooms of major brands, super markets, and hypermarkets have been shut down for a definite period of time affecting sales of various consumer electronics products. For instance, Samsung Electronics America, announced to temporarily closure of all US and Canadian stores from March 19.”

Due to lockdowns across the globe, sales of home appliances slumped during the period, the Samsung official said.

Up until early May, Best Buy, the largest US electronics retailer, had closed its stores, where Samsung and LG products are sold. Now it has reopened about 200 shops across nationwide based on appointments between customers and employees.

By Song Su-hyun (