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March Video Sales Rise In Most Categories


March produced decidedly uneven results for marketers of video hardware as they saw the annualized rates decline for sales to dealers of color TVs but rise for VCRs, camcorders and DVD players, which along with TV/VCRs all set new unit record highs for the months, according to CEMA figures.

And while no new historic video product sales milestones were passed during this year's first quarter, cumulative sales of VCR decks topped the 200 million level in the first week of April (for the week's results see Video Sales Scorecard in Statistics).

As for March, sales of direct-view color TVs dipped for the third month in a row, coming in at 1.75 million, off 6.4% from the same month last year. The first-quarter total of 4.6 million was down 3.9%.

Based on traditional selling patterns, March color TV sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just 20.3 million. That was a seven-year low and off significantly from the quarter's average rate of 22 million.

TV/VCR sales rose 41.5% to a new March high of 337,000 and lifted the first-quarter total to 818,300, up 48.6% and a record for any first-half quarter. The month's indicated annual selling rate was just over 4 million, and while that would represent a full-year sales record, it was down from the 4.2 million rate for the entire first quarter.

Projection TV sales for the month rose 4.4% to 81,300, which put the total just short of the 84,400 March record set in 1996. January-March sales were up 11.5% to 236,600, and like those for TV/VCRs, set a first-half quarterly record. But like other TV products, the March selling rate of 1.05 million was below the quarter's average, which came in at 1.2 million.

VCR sales were a March record 1.69 million and up 14.2%. Sales for the quarter were up 16.1% to 4.04 million and marked the first time sales for any first-half quarter exceeded the 4 million level. The indicated VCR selling rate was a strong 21.1 million for the month and bettered the first-quarter average rate of 20.9 million.

Camcorder sales, which were down in both January and February, posted the fourth highest monthly sales ever in March, coming in a 439,000, up 24%. That was more than enough to offset the earlier declines and leave the category with a new first-quarter sales record of 907,000, up 8.3%. The indicated March selling rate was 4.7 million, topping the 4.6 million rate recorded for the first quarter as a whole.

DVD players continued to surge in March, coming in at 176,000, the second highest monthly total ever and up 359.1%. The first-quarter sales total of 410,900 was up 285.5%. Using historic VCR data as a guide indicates that DVD sales were at a 2.2 million rate in March and at a 2.1 million rate through the first quarter.