‘More retailers want to work with us – it’s fuelled really strong growth…’

Toshiba used IFA in Berlin to preview its 2019 line-up of smart TVs with Alexa voice control. In an exclusive interview, Toshiba’s sales and marketing director for Northern Europe, David Flintoft, tells Sean Hannam how the brand’s return to the European TV market is working out and where it’s heading next…

Q: Last year, Japanese TV brand Toshiba returned to the European market thanks to a licensing deal with Turkish OEM giant Vestel. How’s the move worked out?

David Flintoft: The full launch was last summer. It’s gone really well – we’re meeting the aspirations that we had at the start of 2017. What Vestel has done well is to keep Toshiba’s own brand identity by working closely with its Japanese team in Tokyo – the designs are all driven by Japan. We also have a quality control department in the UK, in Plymouth. We launched a really good range of products and we spoke to our key retail partners to get them on board. In year one, we engaged as many key retailers as possible to get back out there.

The Toshiba heritage is there and so is the demand. We have the benefit of the heritage, but you still have to deliver what people expect and get the product line-up right.

Q: Has the brand been adopted by independent dealers, as well as the big multiples?

DF: Our strategy was to engage with all retail sectors – multiples, mass-merchants, online and independents. We’ve got a really nice mix – that’s important. We’re working directly with Euronics and we have some interesting plans with them for this year.

Every retailer we’ve worked with, we’ve exceeded their expectations in terms of sell-out – we have a strong team in the UK and we’ve carried out promotional campaigns and sponsorship activity. It’s not just been about products and price.

For year two, we’ll have bigger shares in retailers’ portfolios – they’ve taken on more models and more retailers want to work with us. It’s fuelled really strong growth over the past 12 months. We offer good-quality, well-priced, mainstream products. We want to be the best-value option in the UHD space – we’re doing that and offering key technologies.

Our 2018 range, which launched in July, has HDR, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and we have a better sound offering with speakers tuned by Onkyo – that’s another Japanese heritage partnership.

Small screen is also an important UK market – especially for second sets. With the A brands moving away from strong offerings on 24in and 32in, we’re looking after that sector of the market as well and we’ve seen growth there. If you look at GfK figures, we’re making inroads across the board up to 55in.

'We want to be the best value option in the UHD space – we’re offering key technologies and good-quality, well-priced, mainstream products'

David Flintoft, sales and marketing director, Northern Europe, Toshiba

Q: What about smart TV?

DF: The platform is interesting – all of our 2018 TVs can be controlled by Alexa. Our whole range is smart. We think voice will be a driving force – it makes things easier and it works. We’ve also revamped our smart portal – it’s a better user experience.

Q: How’s the TV market generally?

DF: The World Cup timed with us exiting our 2017 models – we had a lot of promotions. What was different with this year’s World Cup from previous major tournaments was that the spike happened during the event. It used to happen ahead of the World Cup, when a lot of retailers started their promotions a month before – when the optimism for England was at all-time low.

Toshiba X98 OLED TV
Toshiba X98 OLED TV

This year, there was a strong uplift during the World Cup as the excitement built, but I would temper that by saying it could’ve been a bigger spike, but the temperature was so hot…

The TV market is tough – everyone’s fighting for everything and it’s hard for retailers to compete on delivery options.

Q: What’s next for Toshiba TVs?

DF: We’re looking at our 2019 line-up – new designs and innovations, including 8K, but it’s early doors on that one. Our smart platform and smart integration is really key for us – how we work with Alexa and broadening our smart-platform portfolio with different apps. We’re also partnering with the DVD launch of Dead Pool 2 this year – it will also allow us to do some channel communications and promotions with our retail partners. We’re investing significantly in more content and in-store and digital tools [marketing assets] for retailers.