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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.