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Walmart TVs Up Close But Not So Personal

6/07/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

DANBURY, CONN. — Although
Walmart is advancing its consumer
electronics upgrade plans at some of
its larger venues across the country,
the changes were not so apparent at
some smaller outlying stores in the
New York City area.

One location scouted by TWICE lies
about 70 miles north of the Big Apple in
Danbury, Conn. On this late May day, it
featured 41 flat-panel TV SKUs, including
two LCD/DVD combo units. All but
one model was LCD-based.

Although the assortment featured
three newly added LG models, as well
as larger-screen Samsung, Sony, Vizio
and Philips units, a number of items
appeared to be inventory closeouts
and warehouse overstock. In several
cases, such merchandise was identified with “Rollback” special tags.

These “Rollbacks” appeared to apply
to the demo models since boxed inventory
below the sets was lean or empty
for a number of items. None of the sets
were indicated as refurbished.

The environment, on a quiet Friday
afternoon with light in-store traffic, appeared
to be self-serve only, as the few
department sales attendants within eyesight
were positioned behind a counter
to apparently work the register and assist
customers with handheld portables and smaller electronics items kept under
glass or chained to the countertop.

On this afternoon, a sale of a bigscreen
TV would have to be initiated
by the customer.

The lone exception to the LCD TVs
on display was a single plasma TV
SKU — a 50-inch 768p Philips model
(50PFP5332D) carrying a “Rollback”
price tag of $1,099. The model
clearly been in inventory a while since
Philips exited the plasma category
several years ago, prior to licensing
the brand to Funai for TVs in the U.S.
and Canada.

Displayed TV brands included a mix
of top-tier labels, including Samsung,
Sharp, Sony, Vizio, LG and Philips.
Supporting second-tier lines included
Sanyo, Emerson, RCA, and Polaroid.

Gone were lower-tier no-name opening
price point (OPP) brands that remain
as featured items on Walmart.
com. Also absent were any iLo privatelabel-
branded sets.

Analysts who monitor the chain
said the lesser-known OPP brands
are brought in around crucial holiday
sales periods and for special promotions.

The assortment was heavily weighted
in favor of Vizio (12 SKUs), Samsung
(seven SKUs), Sanyo (five SKUs)
and Philips (five SKUs including both
PCE and P&F USA items). Among the
rest, Sony, LG and Emerson each had
three SKUs, RCA had two SKUs and
Polaroid had one SKU.

By screen size the biggest assortment
was in 32-inch (12 SKUs), followed
by the 46- to 47-inch segment
(eight SKUs); the 40- to 42-inch segment
(six SKUs); 26-inch models (four
SKUs); 19-inch models (four SKUs);
55-, 50- and 22-inch models (two SKUs
each); and one 52-inch model.

Display models were all mounted
against a wall rack in two long perpendicular
rows. Sets were more or
less grouped together by screen size
in descending order starting from
the left with a 55-inch Samsung at
$1,488 (among the labeled models)
and concluding at the right with a
19-inch 768p Emerson “Rollback”
item at $168.

Up front in the department were
three unmarked big-screen displays
from Samsung and Sharp that appeared
to be there merely to display
Blu-ray Disc players from Vizio,
Samsung and Sony, and placed on
a shelf below.

Given the apparent emphasis on
moving some older inventory and the
lack of boxed goods on the floor, the
department appeared to be preparing
for the transition to the new merchandising
direction discussed by Walmart
executives, as evidenced in our companion
reports in this issue.

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