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Several suppliers are shipping products early this year to avoid end-of-the-year shortages that typically plague retailers and suppliers, and pose a threat to holiday sales.
Both Sony and Pioneer are shipping 2002 model low-end CD players in November and December this year, as the leader CD receiver is often the product in shortest supply during Christmas, they said.
As suppliers typically introduce new products in the first quarter they try to close the year with as little inventory as possible on store shelves. This makes predicting inventories for Christmas very tricky, and often leaves dealers short on hot products by November or December.
Notes Pioneer marketing VP Mike Townsen, "It's difficult to judge and we have to make those forecasts four months in advance, so its hard to get that right every year. So we're shipping two models earlier this year to make sure we have ample supply and to start the model year with as much momentum as possible."
Pioneer's new models lead with the DEH 1400 single-play CD unit, which began shipping to distributors in early November. The product is available on a limited basis. Features include detachable face, 45 watt by 4 built-in amplifier, and new blue backlighting at a suggested retail price of $170.
The step-up model, the DEH-2400F, adds a full flap detachable face so that the CD slot is located behind the display, allowing for a larger display. Suggested retail price is $200.
For its part, Sony began shipping last month a budget-priced in-dash CD receiver called the CDXL-300, which has a suggested retail price of $149.
Several other suppliers are also offering new products during the fourth quarter, including Aiwa, Blaupunkt and Rockford Fosgate. As a harbinger of what to expect in most 2002 lines, almost all of the new products are MP3 capable.
AIWA launched its first car MP3 head unit that plays both MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA) encoded CDs. WMA is a compression format similar to MP3 which uses half the disc space. Blaupunkt is the only other company shipping a WMA-ready head unit.
The new top-of-the-line AIWA CDC-MA01 has a front-panel input jack for a portable CD or MP3 player and comes with a motorized flip-down, hideaway panel. It has a built-in 50 watt, four-channel amplifier, CD changer control, source level adjuster to match output levels from different sources, Advanced H-Bass for fine tuning bass and a wireless steering wheel remote.
The CDC-MA01 will ship in November at a suggested list price of $349.95.
Blaupunkt is debuting a 1GB IBM Microdrive for shuttling MP3 files to and from the car. Called the MDP-01, it is about the size of a handheld PDA and it stores up to 18 hours of music — the equivalent of 15 CDs. The drive works with certain Blaupunkt Skyline and Funline series head units and it ships with a USB docking station and software for downloading MP3 files. It uses the reference standard for MP3 encoding/decoding developed by the Fraunhoffer Instititute for high-quality reproduction, said a spokesman. The MDP-01 will be available in December at a suggested retail price of $799.
Also new from the company is its first Skyline series CD receiver with MP3. Called the Los Angeles MP71, the new top-line unit comes with a three band digital equalizer, DigiCeiver tuner and subwoofer output. It has 50 watt by 4 built-in power and is expected to ship in December at a suggested retail price of $549.
This is joined by the MP3000 CD receiver, also with MP3 and WMA, and CD-R capability. The unit uses ID3 tag information to show artist, song and album information and has several disc search functions. It offers 47 watts by 4 built in power.
Rockford Fosgate is debuting a full line of MP3 capable CD receivers with CD-R and CD-RW compatibility. The three new models feature IR remote control capability and cellphone mute. The two top-line models also have motorized removable faceplates, and the top-of-the-line model also has 100 disc programming. Suggested retail prices for the new models including the RFX9210, RFX9110 and RFX 9000 range from $349.95 to $499.95.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.