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Weather Tackles Super Bowl TV Sales

2/07/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
NEW YORK — The severe winter weather that pounded much of the country last week and in January took the wind out of retailers’ Super Bowl sales.

The most important period on the TV promotional calendar was impacted by varying degrees, dealers and distributors reported, depending on local weather conditions and municipalities’ ability to tackle the ice and snow.

But aside from Mother Nature, merchants also contended with tight vendor inventories, particularly in entry-level to midtier TVs, and with consumers’ continuing reluctance to splurge on fully-featured models.

As a result, national discount chains reported disappointing CE sales in January, with Costco estimating a 1 percent to 1.5 percent crimp in comp store sales due to weather alone.

“The weather has really put a damper on everything,” said Warren Chaiken, president/COO of national distributor Almo Corp., whose TV assortment includes the Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Philips and Coby brands. “People have postponed purchases of products across the board, and we don’t see any Super Bowl bump out there.”

Mike Decker, electronics marketing senior VP for the $12 billion Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG), said the problem was compounded by the tendency of consumers to delay Super Bowl purchases until the week of the game, when a massive storm struck half the nation.

But Nationwide dealers located in more hospitable climes were “rockin’ and rollin’,” Decker said, thanks to a combination of buying group incentives, vendor promotions and the media attention surrounding “two fantastic teams.”

NMG supported members with HDTV commercials, special financing offers, incentives for installation and removal, and rebates that were stacked on top of manufacturer bundles.

“It’s a buyers’ market for TV, with values that were every bit as good or better than Black Friday,” Decker said.

Karen Austin, president of home electronics for Sears Holdings, said despite some tightness in certain screen sizes, the industry is eager to move out inventory in advance of the TV model transition, which will begin as early as this month.

Sears began its Super Bowl season before the playoffs, she said, and saw “nice growth” in 55-inch and 60-inch LCD, and more consumer interest in LED and 3D models — even though the latter wasn’t highlighted in ads due to a 2D Super Bowl broadcast.

Austin said the wintry weather played into Sears’ multichannel strength. Snowbound consumers spend more time online, she noted, where they can order on Sears.com for home delivery or in-store pick-up.

Online-only retailer Newegg.com also saw an upside to the harsh climate. “Many people prefer to let the delivery services brave the elements,” said Bernard Luthi, marketing, web management and customer service VP, who reported minimal impact on deliveries. “Our national fulfillment network has allowed us to remain on track and we were able to maintain our delivery time lines.”

But according to Kenny Kohn, president of NECO dealer Gabowitz TV & Appliance in East Brunswick, N.J., customers were concerned about timely deliveries and tended to cart their TVs home themselves, depriving him of high-margin home-installation opportunities.

Kohn said the string of blizzards that hit the New York metro area has “affected everything,” while the soft economy is keeping consumers confined to entry and mid-level models.

Even Dallas, site of Super Bowl XLV, couldn’t escape the cold, as an ice storm gripped the city just days before the game. David Pigeon, president/CEO of local A/V specialist Starpower, said the weather complicated his company’s heavily-promoted promise of full installation by Super Bowl, although the bigger issue was the game itself, as tickets with a street price of $3,700 were taking money out of the marketplace.

Nevertheless, Super Bowl was still an important opportunity to accommodate his core customer base of athletes, agents and celebrities, Pigeon said, many of whom planned to attend a Starpower party Friday night for Garth Brooks and Cowboy tight end Jason Witten in support of the stars’ children’s charities.
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