Thomson is accelerating in the PC market and showing its ambitions in telephony and TV

Thomson is accelerating in the PC market and showing its ambitions in telephony and TV

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After a long crossing of the desert, Thomson returns to the light. In 2013, Stephan Français relaunched the IT activity of the French brand. Almost 10 years later, Digital takes stock at the IFA in Berlin.

Thomson has regained his appetite. Former French industrial flagship, the French company had lost its luster in the 1990s, abandoning its IT branch in passing. Close to bankruptcy at the beginning of the 21st century, the manufacturer has been reborn from its ashes for nearly ten years under the impetus of Stephan Français, founder and managing director of the Sfit group (which became Metavisio in the spring of 2022), who decided in 2013 to relaunch the activity of the tricolor brand, under the name Thomson Computing.

“When I took over the Thomson brand, no one was fighting for it. I took it out because I knew the power of attraction of this brand. It was still the company that had bought all the French boxes of ‘electronics. In the end, they were such an unmanageable group that they were losing money all over the place”remembered Stephan Français in 2019 in the columns of Digital.

Nearly a decade after the relaunch, the results are there, and Thomson now wants to move upmarket in the laptop market. When Stephan Français took over the brand in 2013, there was already talk of launching high-end computers, “but it didn’t really work”acknowledges Sébastien Crombez, Licensing, Sales & Marketing Manager at Thomson.

Entry-level laptops as an angle of attack

To return to the front of the stage, Stephan Français finally opted in 2015 for a breakthrough on the entry level with entry-level laptops, at less than 300 €. To achieve this, the company designs its computers in France, but produces them in China, so as to offer innovative devices at attractive prices. “We make the composition of our PCs in France. There are millions of ways to create a product and find what will best suit the buyer. Then we make our own masters, all the software You can put the software you want when Windows starts, such as Norton, which is offered for 2 months. Since 2018, we have also been doing R&D in France. We integrate all these technologies and have them assembled by production lines. Chinese. Like Apple, in the end”summarized Stephan Français in 2019.

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This approach has allowed the brand to gain experience in a computer market dominated by Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus and even Apple. At the same time, Thomson Computing offered itself the judoka Teddy Riner as a luxury ambassador to gain notoriety among the general public, failing to invest colossal sums in marketing. The double individual Olympic champion entered the capital of the company in 2016, of which he holds 7%. For his part, Stephan Français is the majority shareholder with 69% of the company’s shares.

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By betting on the entry-level segment, neglected by the global giants, the French brand was able to quickly gain momentum to claim 81.5% of the French PC market at less than €300 and 23.6% by the end of 2021. % on the PC market under €500. These good performances are reflected in the financial results of the company, which went from 11 million euros in turnover in 2014 to 40 million in 2019.

Sébastien Crombez, Licensing, Sales & Marketing Manager at Thomson, at IFA 2022 in Berlin.

© Maxence Fabrion / Digital

Upgrading since 2019

It was three years ago that Thomson Consulting began to broaden its angle of attack, with price ranges of up to €900, or even €1,200 for a PC. gaming. “We are really trying to move upmarket. We have bothered established IT players on the French market a lot, such as HP and Lenovo. Now, we are trying to come and attack them in the heart of the market, and not only in ‘entry level”, says Sébastien Crombez. Comments that complement those of Stephan Français three years ago: “I like the products that I sell at €200 or €300, but that’s not my dream. It’s to attack high-end niches with technology, while remaining accessible to the public. Four or five PC manufacturers will not take 100% of the market. My strategy for attacking the very high-end niche is to offer a single product, but with many qualities and a very good quality/performance ratio. price.”

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In addition to starting to move upmarket, the tricolor company benefited from the sudden increase in supply caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with the IT equipment needs of individuals and businesses, the French brand has seen its turnover rise sharply, reaching 60.8 million euros at the end of 2021. Enough to allow the company build confidence and whet your appetite for the future.

To show its muscles, Thomson took advantage of the IFA in Berlin to unveil the Evo, a 15.6-inch laptop with Intel Evo certification and a Core i5-1135G7. Developed in partnership with the American founder, the machine is sold at a price of €799. And if it left us with a good impression in Berlin, it is actually a rebadged version of the NUC M15 Evo, a reference laptop sold by Intel. A way for the French brand to move upmarket more quickly, although some heavyweights on the market do not hesitate to offer equivalent configurations at sometimes more attractive prices.

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Smartphones, a more complex market to tame

Thomson doesn’t just want to scale up on laptops. The tricolor company also has the smartphone market in its sights. But getting a place in this ultra-competitive market is not easy, and the French brand has learned this the hard way. “We attempted a first breakthrough in 2018 on smartphones. Unfortunately, this attempt failed, because the partner on whom we were relying was doing urban mobility, and he ended up with too high stocks of products on this vertical Consequently, in terms of finances, our partner was no longer able to develop telephony”says Sébastien Crombez.

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“So Thomson Computing took over the telephony license, but they already have a lot to do with computers. They tried to release two models of telephones, but when you are a company, there is a significant need for financing. But they didn’t manage to get the necessary funding, both to make smartphones and IT, so they stayed on IT to really focus on their core business. Drop it”, he assures. Before adding: “We may come back, we are in negotiations with a French telephony player to redo smartphones. We may have something to announce in 2023, but I cannot say more for the moment. “

Soon the divorce with TCL for televisions?

Beyond Thomson Computing, the French brand lives through other entities. Indeed, it grants licenses to companies, which deal with the distribution of its products. “The advantage of the license is that we rely on specialists to develop specialist products. For example, Schneider has the license for small household appliances. They are going to develop small household appliances, they are not going to start wanting to do IT or launch TVs. This model allows you to have partners who will focus on a specific product category in a specific market that they know well”explains Sébastien Crombez.

Thus, Thomson relies on the Chinese group TCL for its televisions. But that could change in the next few months… “Today, it is TCL that produces and distributes our televisions. In 2023, this may no longer be the case. We are still in discussion with TCL, but they have pushed their own brand enormously over the past three years”, indicates the Sales & Marketing Manager. And to continue: “If they want to continue like this, we have no interest in staying with them. This is not where we want to go. We want to develop QLED, OLED, we want to offer different products to consumers. In 2023, we will surely come back with a new range of televisions that may not be produced by TCL.”

In the meantime, all eyes are on Thomson’s IT division. And for good reason, next year it will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its rebirth. There is no doubt that the company will want to mark the occasion to celebrate the return to the forefront of a historic brand, well known and appreciated by the French.

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