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2012: A Year Of Surprises

2012 started with rumors about Apple TV and it ends with rumors about Apple TV.

With all the Apple TV talk going back to last year, you would have thought we would have seen a product by now, but that wasn’t the only surprise this year. There were plenty of others.

For instance, who would have thought when the industry gathered for International CES in January that by April Best Buy’s CEO Brian Dunn would be thrown out the door? Maybe some did, due to Best Buy’s challenges in the market. But no one thought it would be due to an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

Who would have thought that incident would eventually push out Best Buy’s chairman, founder and largest stockholder Dick Schulze, because he did not share that news immediately with the board? And that Schulze would then form a group to attempt to take over the chain and try to take it private?

Dunn, along with Best Buy’s slumping performance and the “showrooming” phenomenon, which greatly benefits online retailers — especially Amazon — were the overriding CE stories of 2012.

Best Buy’s problems — along with the upsurge in online sales, the continued popularity of tablets and Apple products, and the rise of Samsung and LG to the detriment of the Japanese manufacturers who carried the industry for 50 years — spurred anyone with a blog or social media account to become a self-styled CE industry expert. (This includes the breed known as the “Wall Street analyst.”) This resulted in much citing of the obvious with plenty of vitriol added in for good measure.

CE companies that were hurting this year did share one common trait — they didn’t continue to innovate like they did throughout their history.

Back in January, some retailers knew, but didn’t discuss, another major surprise: the new CE pricing policies by suppliers to generate profits for themselves and key retail partners.

I know, the Mayans and Nostradamus must be right. When CE makers begin pushing unilateral pricing policies to make money, starting with TVs, the world must be coming to an end.

Some stories fell into the category of “It feels like deja vu all over again,” as the great philosopher Y. Berra once said. For instance, how about the return of Joe Clayton to his CE and satellite roots? He charged into CES in January as CEO of Dish with the company’s Hopper line, bringing along his typical promotional savvy.

In September Clayton struck again, and for the third time unveiled a new satellite technology at Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City with the Maloney brothers, this time for the DishNet highspeed Internet service.

And finally this month the NATM Buying Group announced that longtime former member American TV & Appliance returned to the group after a decade being away, and The Big Screen Store, run by Cary and Kevin Luskin, sons of legendary retailer Jack Luskin, also joined the group.

So who says you can’t go home again?

You can go back to Vegas again, and the heck with Dec. 21, 2012. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone, and we’ll see you at CES in January!

This originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2012 print issue of TWICE.