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Big-screen TVs expected to sell well this holiday season

Date: 11/25/2008    Source: Global Projector

There is no victory at bargain basement prices. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Big-screen TVs expected to sell well this holiday season

Ike may have kicked butt in Normandy in 1944, but he obviously never went shopping for a big-screen TV the day after Thanksgiving.

Bargain-basement prices on high-end electronics will be the norm during the holiday shopping season. Sale prices on consumer electronics gear should be 35 percent or more under 2007 levels, according to industry projections.

Nowhere will those deals be more evident than in the big-screen TV aisles. Manufacturers last summer geared up for an expected major holiday season, an action that preceded much of the economic collapse.

Now there are plenty of big screens in the pipeline, and potentially not enough buyers.

"Most retailers and manufacturers have a strong sense of urgency to put the best deals out there," said Paul Gagnon, director of North American TV research for market intelligence firm DisplaySearch.

Already, 42-inch flat-screen TVs that sold for $1,500 a year ago are selling at or below $1,000. On Saturday, MicroCenter in Overland Park offered 32-inch high-definition sets for under $400. Big-box retailer Costco is offering 46-inch Sharp hi-def sets on a two-for-one deal.

Retailers and manufacturers with too many products to sell and too few shoppers in their stores could push prices even lower. A shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season sparked by a late Thanksgiving is adding to the mix.

Like last year, big-screen television sets - generally defined as a screen 32 inches or larger - are expected to be the hot item this Christmas. Sparked by the down economy and lower prices, the hottest of the hot will be 32-inch LCD sets. About 25 percent of us will opt for that size, according to industry projections.

The Consumer Reports holiday shopping poll released last week projected that 23 percent of consumers plan to buy a big-screen TV either before or after the holidays.

Despite job concerns, the depressed stock market and the increasingly weak economy, U.S. retailers are expected to sell more than 10 million such sets during the last three months of the year.

While that may sound like a healthy number, it¡¯s down from the 11.6 million projected in August by DisplaySearch, and also well below the 11.5 million sets sold during the 2007 holiday season.

One event is key in that expected $8 billion-plus buying spree.

In February, television broadcasters will shut down their analog transmitters and switch to digital programming.

While cable and satellite TV customers aren't affected by the changeover, and a government giveaway program offers coupons for just-about-free converter boxes for over-the-air TV viewers, many consumers are using the changeover as an excuse to upgrade their TVs.

The sets offer high-definition viewing experiences that provide a far better picture than the analog sets that have been in consumers'homes for decades.

"People are going to buy a lot of them despite the economic issues," said Stephen Baker, a vice president for The NPD Group.

"There's still going to be robust volume compared to every other consumer electronics category."

There are several TV technology options on store shelves, but most consumers will focus on only two: LCD or plasma.

LCD - short for liquid crystal display - dominates a market that includes plasma screens, front projection, rear projection and an up-and-coming-technology called OLED (organic light-emitting diode).

LCD sets outsell plasma sets by more than 6 to 1.

KeyWord: LCD
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