x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sales boom is sweet music at Harman

Harman House reports a robust rise in sales as consumers kit out their TV and iPods with the latest speakers and gadgets

Electronics on display at Harman House electronics store. Ryan Carter / The National
Electronics on display at Harman House electronics store. Ryan Carter / The National

The high street is alive to the sound of money. In another sign the retail sector is back on track, Harman Middle East reported rising sales of the latest home entertainment systems.

The company posted strong sales for the first nine months of its financial year, with revenues already surpassing those of the entire previous year.

"Disposable incomes are now seriously large as rents have come down, people are spending more time with family at home and buying our products," said Amit Malani, the president of Harman Middle East.

The company, based in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone, posted revenues of US$156 million (Dh572.9m) for the nine months ending on March 31 and expects to achieve sales of more than $200m by June 30, when its financial year ends.

Harman, which brands its stores Harman House, is among a growing number of retailers and car makers reporting double-digit sales growth in the first three months of this year - rates much higher than GDP growth.

Other electronics retailers have also reported robust revenues so far this year, with sales of popular new items such as iPads and LED TVs accelerating.

Sharaf DGannounced an increase of 23 per cent in first-quarter sales on the previous year and opened its first shop in Abu Dhabi, while Jumbo Electronics estimates first-quarter revenue growth of about 20 per cent over last year.

Sales for non-food retailers, such as clothing, electronics and jewellery stores, increased just 5 per cent to Dh42 billion last year from 2009, according to the latest figures from the market research group Euromonitor.

Harman's audio-visual brands include JBL, Infinity and Harman Kardon.

Harman had significant growth in sales of home theatre systems, iPod and iPhone docking stations and AKG headphones. The retail arm also experienced large sales growth in its latest range of Blu-raydisc players.

"Movies are 50 per cent sound and 50 per cent visual," said Mr Malani. "Without the sound, they are only half the fun, so it's a very fast-moving segment."

Harman has 10 stores in the UAE, two in Saudi Arabia and one each in Bahrain, Qatar, Pakistan and Mauritius.

Two years ago, the company announced plans to open 100 stores across the region, but those plans were shelved amid the economic downturn.

Mr Malani says the company aims to increase sales in its current stores and will look to open three more stores in Abu Dhabi over the next two years.

"We are very keen on Abu Dhabi, but I'm not convinced which of the new malls to invest in yet," Mr Malani said. In 2009, Harman Internationalopened a 1,486-square-metre showroom in Dubai Mall. It has become the company's best-performing store worldwide.

The store promotes the integration of audio-visual equipment into designer homes, with much of the store space displaying living environments including bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms.

Harman also has stores in Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road, and at Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif City Centre, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Festival City, Deira City Centre and Al Nasr Square.

Harman says its brands are used in more than 70 per cent of the world's recording studios and more than 75 per cent of cinemas worldwide built in the past 20 years. Its sound systems are incorporated into premium vehicles such as BMW, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Mr Malani said the international business had benefited from strong sales by major car makers in the first three months of this year, especially in the Middle East.

But he said the company was not expecting any material impact on its sourcing from Japanese suppliers and partners and that its production would remain "materially unaffected".