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CES Rite Of November Is Welcome

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) held its rite of November on Tuesday, its annual New York Press Preview and CES Unveiled event at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18TH Street.

To this reporter, and probably a few other attendees, it was a welcome bit of normality after dealing with this economically troubled year.

The event traditionally kicks off two months worth of promotional activity prior to the upcoming International CES, which in 2010 will be held in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10, and presentations by Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA, and Karen Chupka, CEA’s events and conferences senior VP, were no exception.

They briefed the media about additional keynote speakers, new displays and show features and discussed issues facing the industry. CES Unveiled, held at the same facility on the main floor, had displays of more than 30 CE companies that will also exhibit at CES.

During a year of economic upheaval, layoffs, lower sales, financial losses for many suppliers and retailers, and the demise of Circuit City, Tweeter and many others, the event was more upbeat than one would imagine.

Many of the suppliers, public relations execs and media types who were there were probably relieved that this regular part of the CE calendar was still intact … and that many still called the industry home.

Yes, there were plenty of questions about the size of the show (CES won’t need to use the Sands Convention Center this year) and that CEA is using the 110,000 figure as its official estimate of what it thinks 2010 attendance would be, around 3,000 fewer than 2009.

If the estimated numbers for CES are close to correct, given the economic environment, that’s pretty darn good and shows the resilience of the CE industry.

For instance, CEA’s Shawn DuBravac, chief economist/research director, and Steve Koenig, industry analysis director, clearly stated during the press briefing that Black Friday has already begun making this “Black November,” given all the spot promotions at retail. Sales volume will be there, slightly better than last year’s holiday disaster, but profits? That’s the question.

DuBravac and Koenig also predicted that interactive and 3D TV; mobile TV, software and packaged media; and apps and accessories will take much of the CES spotlight in January. 3D camcorders and cameras, a real, profitable push toward environmentally friendly products of all types and maybe even health care products CE-style (Best Buy’s announcement may be the tip of the iceberg) may also be on display. We’ll all see in January.

So I prefer to be optimistic today. For those industry insiders who grumble, “There’s nothing new in this industry,” the CES event showed that, yes, there are new products and technologies coming down the road. And there are plenty more upgrades of current technologies to keep suppliers and retailers busy and growing, and keep consumers captivated by the innovations of the CE industry.