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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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