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Trade fair

September 4, 2009

The world's biggest consumer electronics trade fair, the IFA, kicks off in Berlin, defying the financial crisis and falling consumer demand.

GFU head Raimund Hosch, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Miss IFA
Merkel sounded an optimistic note at the opening of IFAImage: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was upbeat on Thursday after she was told that the booming electronics and electrical appliances sector was recession-proof.

"Our sector is defying the crisis," said Rainer Hecker, head of the GFU German consumer electronics trade association that runs the event.

The German Ifo economic research institute has predicted German growth of up to one percent is possible next year in Europe's largest economy, with some analysts forecasting as much as three percent.

Merkel, who has a PhD in physics, officially opened the 49th IFA, at an official reception at the city fairgrounds in the German capital.

Merkel said many products introduced at IFA quickly became big sellers soon after, but she chided German broadcasters for their long delay in introducing high-definition television. Merkel also called for a rapid expansion of broadband Internet connections in rural areas.

BdT Deutschland IFA Vorbereitung in Berlin
IFA will show off the latest gadgets until Sept. 4Image: AP

Japanese electronics giant Sony has rolled out what it claims will be the next generation of home entertainment. Its "Real 3D" system is meant to bring three-dimensional imaging not only to cinemas - but also to televisions and gaming consoles at home. Viewers wear electronic glasses that open and close rapidly in time with images designed for the right and left eye to create a three-dimensional effect.

German market very solid

"If we take the German market, we have fantastic growth at the moment," said market analyst Juergen Boyny. Stiff competition has seen consumer prices for electronic goods in Germany fall an average of 10 percent, which is boosting sales.

The booming German consumer electronics market and the return to the fair of such major players as Vodafone and Pioneer has helped create a sense of optimism in a branch rocked by the recession.

Analysts expect a 1.5 percent drop in global sales of consumer electronic equipment this year - but this comes a year after sales leapt by 13 percent to a record 487 billion euros ($694 billion).

1,164 exhibitors from 63 countries show off their products
Visitors flock to IFA to see products from 63 countriesImage: Messe Berlin

Manufacturers are also banking on Germany pulling out of the economic slowdown, as the market here is expected to grow by four percent this year.

A total of 1,164 manufacturers from 63 nations are exhibiting at the event, which runs until Sept. 9. High-definition HDTV, digital cameras, notebooks, navigation devices and sound systems will take center stage. Organizers expect around 200,000 visitors to visit the IFA trade fair.

"Our expectations are extremely positive. It seems we may have a real chance of breaking (attendance) records this year," says IFA organizer Christian Goecke.

"And if you bear in mind in what kind of general situation we are currently in, that would be a truly respectable success."

Many products are being promoted with claims of green technology inside, for example through reduced use of heavy metals and other pollutants. Cutting power use by plasma and liquid-crystal-display (LCD) television sets is a key aim of the industry.

LCD sets with light-emitting diode (LED) backlights are centerpieces at this year's show.

Editor: Tony Dunham