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Picture This: Opportunity Knocks

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Strong flatpanel sales and the approaching FCC mandate could help expand your business.

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VP322 HD plasma

Research firm DisplaySearch reports strong shipments of Vizio's 32in. VP322 HD plasma (pictured above), which is the smallest plasma available on the market. The unit's strong numbers have most likely contributed to the large growth in flatpanel sales from Q1 to Q2 2008.

If you follow AV industry news regularly, you might have already read about the surprisingly strong TV sales over the last few months, despite the poor economic environment the country is in right now. Amid $4-per-gallon gasoline, the mortgage crisis, rising food prices, and failing banks, it's no secret that consumers are generally being very cautious these days about discretionary purchases. Yet TVs — particularly flatpanels — are selling remarkably well in spite of economic forecasts.

Washington D.C.-based market-research firm MarketWatch reported that leading United States economic indicators fell 0.7 percent in July 2008. This points to a “slow growth for the rest of the year, and possibly an economy grinding to a halt,” according to MarketWatch's conference board. Nonetheless, the TV market is doing anything but grinding to a halt.

DisplaySearch, a Texas-based research firm that tracks display sales, reported a whopping 26-percent increase in North American TV sales from Q1 to Q2 this year and a similarly eye-opening 28-percent increase in Q2 2008 sales compared to Q2 2007. This, according to DisplaySearch, represents the strongest growth in TV sales since the firm began tracking the data in 2004. What's more, both LCD and plasma flatpanels experienced even greater gains from Q1 to Q2. LCD sales grew 30 percent Q/Q, and plasma units went up by 35 percent.

DisplaySearch notes that “strong initial shipments of Vizio's 32in. HD [plasma display panel],” — now the smallest plasma available — are a large contributing factor to those plasma statistics. Furthermore, much of LCD's sales growth also comes from panel shipments of smaller 19in., 22in., and 32in. form factors, because price points for those sizes are low. Still, LCD shipments in total were up 52 percent in Q2 2008 compared to Q2 2007, and plasma shipments grew 34 percent over the same period. Those are impressive numbers by any measure.

Lower prices explain a lot about the strong sales numbers, but they surely don't say it all. Is this a case of consumers pampering themselves in tough times, rationalizing buying a new TV so they can save by not going out to the movies? Are these strong sales numbers the result of bargain hunters finding deals at desperate electronics sellers? Perhaps it's both of those things.

But there's something else out on the horizon that probably helps explicate these purchases too, and it's an opportunity that installers shouldn't pass up — especially amid the current tough economic times.

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