issue: December 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine
Fans Hot This Summer
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Qinli, China correspondent
Electric fans are getting new designs—and they’re flying off the shelves.
and home electronics stores in China in August 2008, one would find
some models of electric fans completely sold out. Retailers report that
high-end electric fans with new designs and priced around RMB 400
(approx. US$58) were the most popular, especially among urban consumers.
Only a few years ago electric fans were called a sunset industry;
so why are they regaining popularity now? Airmate Electronics Co.
director of industrial design Huang Shoucheng believes he knows: “The
strongest weapon that a company can have against market stagnation is
to emphasize innovative product design.”
A Storm of Sales
Market data show that electric fan companies
have been growing in the last two years, competing to launch new
models, while sales surged. China’s National Statistics Bureau reports
that more than 140 million electric fans were produced in 2007. In the
first six months of 2008, production reached almost 86 million units.
peak 2008 season for electric fan sales brought even more pleasant
surprises to fan makers. An internal document provided by Midea shows
that, as of July 2008, domestic and international sales of Midea
electric fans (including air-conditioner fans) totaled 16 million
units, for a total revenue of RMB 2 billion (approx. US$292 million),
up 38% over the same period in 2007. A/C fans grew 55% year on year.
The domestic market is buoyant.
electric fans were very good this year, growing 40% over last year,”
said Yao Wangxing, head of marketing for Shenzhen Lianchuang, which
produces mainly A/C fans.
This summer’s hot
sales of electric fans also came as a surprise for Sinfung Electronics
marketing director Zhang Xiao. “There was huge growth this year over
last year in electric fans, overall totaling 60%. Sales of floor fans
was more than double what it was last year and air-conditioner fans
grew by close to 50%. Growth in sales of high-end products was the most
Naturally, the growth of the market
has attracted more companies to the industry, which has in turn
intensified competition. Zhongyikang’s June 2008 report on electric fan
sales in 2500 stores in 280 Chinese cities shows Midea has 44.76%
market share, Airmate has 14.06%, and Sinfung has 9.43%. Compared with
Zhongyikang’s figures from June 2007, the brand situation has not
changed very much, including the market shares of the top three brands.
Innovative Design Is Key
In an industry in which major players have
the same core technologies, product differentiation and innovation has
become extremely important. OEMs are using innovation to break away
from traditional designs, developing appliances that are unique and
personalized. Electric fan makers widely attribute increased fan sales
to design differentiation, personalization, and innovation.
first, we simply took fans that were meant for export and sold them in
China,” relates Huang of Airmate. “Now, products for domestic sale are
all specially designed for the China market. Even though the actual
functions of these products hasn’t really changed, the details of the
products have seen big improvements. They consider more how Chinese
consumers use products, like creating more design details that match
As evidence of the
increasing emphasis on design in the electric fan industry, Huang said,
look to the Airmate Concept Fan Contest, organized by Airmate and the
China Industrial Design Association. The winning designs, he said,
showed quite imaginative design ideas that impressed even the industry
Midea, China’s market share leader
in fans for 14 consecutive years, made improvements to the
functionality and external design of 2008 models. “This year our
product designs feature a black and gold tech look, and next year we are planning to go for a clean, refreshing look,” said an engineer from a fan development department.
Midea engineer couldn’t hide his excitement about the company’s 2008
fan designs. “Based on our observation of people’s sleeping habits in
the summer, we developed a timer function and have already applied for
a patent on it. We divided an eight-hour period into 16 parts and
assigned numbers to them. The user can then set the timer according to
his or her preference. If you turn the fan to the fifth setting, it
will automatically turn on two hours later and the speed of the fan
will be automatically adjusted according to the temperature in the room
(there are six speed settings).”
puts much consideration into engineering the air movement. “We’ve
modified the turning speed of our electric fans to make the airflow
feel like an ocean breeze or wind blowing through a forest. This makes
the airflow feel natural.”
Electric fan blades
have also seen noteworthy design changes. In 2008, Sinfung heavily
promoted dual-blade technology. Zhang explained that the one set of
blades on traditional floor fans can create an eddy of air when
spinning rapidly, which channels most of the air to the sides with less
airflow in the center. In contrast, the dual-blade system has a smaller
set of blades in the center of the primary blades, running at the same
speed. This makes up for the lack of airflow in the center and
increases the overall airflow.
fans are still the mainstream standard in China, but Midea staff have
said that the company may launch five-blade fans in 2009. The
five-blade design will allow air to be dispersed more evenly and make
for a softer airflow.
The consumer will have
to spend more for a five-blade fan. However, trends in the market
suggest consumers are more than willing to pay a premium for a fan that
offers innovative design.