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Flat-Panel Price Checkup At Costco

My wife Marion and I visited our local Costco in Long Island City, Queens, this past Sunday and as we entered the store I was stunned by the number and size of flat-panel TVs on display. As she went shopping for things we needed (coffee and paper towels) and a few things we probably didn’t, I began working. I borrowed a pen and got some scrap paper to write down prices and model numbers for an unscientific pricing survey.

One thing that struck me was the size of the boxes, especially of the 50-inch and over. In speaking with plenty of retailers and suppliers about the category in recent weeks, some say that many flat panels can be carried home by consumers. Yeah … OK, but the SUV had better be big and you’d better bring some friends along because those 50-inch and above units are big, thin and somewhat heavy boxes. I also wondered how many Costco product returns in CE involve customers who drop the flat panels in the parking lot or carrying it into their homes from their cars.

I scribbled down information on only a few of the flat panels on display. Not all were mentioned on the Costco Web site, by the way. The Vizio 60-inch plasma VM60P was priced at $2,499 and the Vizio 50-inch VP50 plasma was priced at $1,399. The 60-inch had the same price but the 50-inch was $100 more on the Vizio site.

The Panasonic 50-inch TH50PX60U was priced at $1,699 while the 42-inch TH42PE77 was priced at $1,349. Neither model number was on the Costco or the Panasonic Web sites, so they could be derivative models for the warehouse club, an established practice for that channel.

The Sony Bravia 46-inch KDL46V25L1 LCD was priced at $2,399, which was the same price as the Costco Web site. And the Sharp Aquos 52-inch LC60C52U was priced at $3,299 — $100 more than the listing on the Costco site.

And a major brand not already mentioned in this story had a 63-inch plasma on display for $2,999 — $500 more than the Vizio model down the aisle but $900 to $2,000 less than prices on other major retail Web sites. A question about one digit in the model number has stopped me from mentioning the brand name, but in the topsy-turvy world of flat-panel pricing it doesn’t seem to be terribly outlandish.

Retailers — check these prices and feature packages with comparable SKUs you’re selling and let us know what you think.