If it weren’t for the coronavirus, quarantine and closed borders, it is very likely that North American, Brazilian and Chilean tourists were destroying cell phones, notebooks and tablets. It would be a rematch of the times of the exchange delay, when the Argentines returned from Miami or Santiago de Chile with suitcases full of purchases.
Today the coin fell backwards. At a blue dollar around $ 125, Samsung’s top and most expensive model (Galaxy S20 Ultra) It is sold in the country for US $ 1,000, well below the US $ 1,259 that is quoted in the United States.. Such marked price differences are verified in almost all categories, models and brands, as revealed by research conducted exclusively for Clarion by the MRT consultant (Market, Research & Technology).
The study covered the flag models of the leading brands in cell phones, TV and laptops and the prices offered in portals of specialized chains in Argentina (in pesos at parallel dollar value), United States and Chile. The choice of the last two countries is not accidental: they are the two main shopping destinations for Argentines when the exchange rate is behind. “Most of our equipment can be obtained in Argentina for a value of up to 29% less than in the United States or Chile“explains Eliseo Outes, Samsung executive. And he underlines that the whole family of the S20, which goes on sale this Friday, will cost”between 20 and 27% less than in the United Statesdepending on the model. “
The MRT report provides other comparisons between Argentina and the United States. The gap for the Razr Flex model, its brand new flexible and most expensive version of Motorola, is $ 1,048 against $ 1,250. The only exception is the iPhone 11 ($ 1,260 vs. $ 1,100).
Similar things happen in the rest of the electronics. The same model of Samsung’s 55-inch 4K TV is worth $ 450 in the country and $ 700 in the United States. In the notebook market the survey was complicated because there is almost no stock. Of what little there is, MRT rescued two cases. A Hewlett Packard model ($ 327 vs. $ 386) and other Lenovo’s N4000 ($ 204 vs. $ 410).
In the latter case, Gastón García, from MRT explains that this is a very specific promotion, a common practice for businesses and manufacturers to accelerate the renewal of the technological offer. Anyway, the specialist says that the price difference is due to two main reasons: “The devaluation has a direct impact on the price, but also, in a recessive market there is no price adjustment,” he said. Thus, he alluded to the difficulties of brands, manufacturers and chains to transfer the price of the dollar to prices.
The best local prices not only benefit eventual tourists. While it is an illegal market, the parallel exchange rate is an alternative for Argentines with dollars in the mattress. “The electronics are reached by the Now 12 and Now 18. programs. The purchase in installment plans (at subsidized rates) partially liquefies the cost of the productHowever, with the pandemic and the total cancellation of flights, the restrictions to sell and the financing of the electronics is pure conjecture. Conjectures that deserve to be analyzed because, adds García. the supply and demand for equipment faces many difficulties, some of which have an impact on relative prices.
The vast majority of cell phones are produced in Tierra del Fuego. Quarantine was decreed on the island rather than nationwide, and factories were paralyzed for 56 days. For this reason, product income contracted 47% in the first four months of the year, compared to the same period in 2019. The fall in April was 93%, notes an MRT study. At a slower pace, online sales continued and there were shortages of models, which mainly affected Samsung and Motorola, which account for 87% of the total market. Manufacturers resumed production from May 7 and between this week and next they will be able to work at 50% of their capacity. TV, another category that is locally assembled, was also in short supply. Newsan CEO Luis Galli estimates that “supply will normalize only towards the end of July“
Laptops are all imported and in the first four-month period the market grew almost 7%, an apparently unusual figure. Demand soared, they explain in the sector, precisely because of quarantine: the telecommuting (many companies bought equipment for their employees) and for online classes and entertainment for children and young people with no chance of going out. “The shortage did not occur only in Argentina. Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, as are quarantines. In Europe, demand also surprised and there was a shortage, “explains Lenovo Argentina CEO Juan Martín. The origin of everything is China, the world’s largest supplier of components. The executive adds that to curb the coronavirus”plants in that country were closed during January and part of February and so the industry was unable to respond to the peak in demand. “
The Lenovo executive (owner of the Motorola brand) maintains that they are measuring the stock all the time. “Typically, commercial chains have product for up to 8 weeks. Today, some are below one, at most two weeks. The situation in China is normalizing and We estimate that in 3 weeks there will be a partial replacement“, said.
In 2019, according to consultancy IDC, just over 1 million units were sold. And for this year, Martín estimates an annual fall of between 10 and 15%. In the ranking of brands in the first quarter, Lenovo leads (42%) and the top ten are completed by HP (28%), Dell (10%), Acer (7%), Asus (4%), Vaio, Positivo- BGH and Apple, with 2% share respectively.
The offer of electronic products is divided into two. Fuegian production is concentrated in three categories (cell phones, televisions and air conditioners). The rest is imported directly. Both come out favored by the gap, since both the inputs to assemble and the finished products are governed by the official dollar. “The incidence of the components varies according to the product. On cell phones it represents 70% of the cost of production. On TV it is 50%,” says Federico Hellemeyer, president of AFARTE (the camera of the Fuegian manufacturers).
The construction of the final price also computes labor (also behind the dollar), provincial and national taxes, logistics and the margins of the shops. Hellemeyer stresses that due to manufacturing restrictions, “fixed costs are higher”, and that the industry today “is calibrating production volumes and prices“
Despite the crisis and recession, the gap between the official dollar and the blue is an invitation to dump dollar savings or surplus pesos. “I do not remember such a large exchange gap and it is clearly a good time to make purchases,” says consultant Enrique Carrier. In any case, he says that the main concern is stock: “You have to see how imports evolve, the possible restrictions on imports and how the productive chain of Tierra del Fuego is accommodated“
Just as of this Thursday, the provincial government relaxed industrial activity even more. Plants can now increase the rate up to 50% per production line and “with three rotating shifts we would be very close to pre-crisis levelsGalli points out. “Production is recovering very slowly and we are currently operating at 25% of capacity. The question is to observe the evolution in the medium and long term, “adds Marcelo Girotti, CEO of BGH, a company that produces three categories: televisions, air conditioners and microwaves. The stoppage of the activity had its compensation in the lack of sales. In the sector they agree that before the crisis, the plants work at 40% of their capacity, Girotti comments that in the future, the objective “is to align production with demand”.
Tierra del Fuego concentrates production in three categories of electronics: TV, cell phones and air conditioners.
In general, executives and companies calculate that normalization of supply will take around two months. Televisions, another key product within the sector, are also scarce. According to MRT, according to the Fuegian dispatches in the first quarter of the year, the leading brands are Noblex (14%), Philips (12%), Samsung (11%) and TCL (9%). “Cell phones and TV there is a serious shortage, with fewer models and some operators are about to go bankrupt“says Enrique Laffue, CEO of LG.
On prices, the executive that Argentina is now very competitive and the industry is cheaper, in terms of dollars. “On the other hand, due to the effect of the recession, with the demand withdrawn and the supply scarce, Laffue interprets that electronics today is not it’s a price market. “Typically, brands and manufacturers compete with promos and offers. And today there is not much of that, “he concluded.
From Newsan emphasize that not only the exchange gap works in favor. “In recent years, the industry has worked very hard to improve competitiveness (production, taxes and logistics) and that this has an impact on an improvement in prices compared to direct imports,” Galli insists. The top executive adds that he would not be surprised “if the shopping tours of neighboring countries return,” as happened with the Argentines in the days of “sweet money.”