Have PNDs Lost Their Way?

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It appears that Santa was not kind to portable GPS suppliers, leaving them only flat sales for the fourth quarter, where in 2007 sales to consumers were up 400 percent for the same period. 

Garmin recently released a statement acknowledging, “The December sales environment is weaker, which we attribute to our retail customers’ desire to exit the year with lower levels of inventory,” according to chief financial officer and treasurer Kevin Rauckman, although he said Black Friday sales were as predicted. 

Analysts believe sales will be flat for the quarter, and several key retailers told TWICE that inventories are now piled high at all price points, and so they expect to see the same Black Friday discounts down to $79 to $99 during the first quarter. 

The results are a blow to an industry where 60 percent of sales were transacted in the fourth quarter last year. 

TomTom has already extended its $99 Black Friday special on the TomTom One 125 through December, and retailers expect it to continue through January. 

Mio senior sales director Kiyoshi Hamai said, “I’m afraid that consumers feel that a PND is ‘nice’ to have in these tough economic times and hence are either deciding to delay [a purchase] or use their cash for their needs and must haves,” he offered as conjecture. 

“The first half of 2009 will be tough for all and I think we just need to manage our business to survive the first half and conquer in the second half,” he added. 

 Don Borros, mobile electronics director for Sixth Avenue Electronics, added, “The economy is not as strong as everyone expected it to be seven or eight months ago, when everyone was planning their business,” He also affirmed, “Yes, there are big inventories for the industry — all these guys — at every price point, even $99. Without a doubt, the next quarter will be affected. For the next couple of months you’ll probably see Black Friday pricing throughout every price point.” 

As of July, PND sales were running ahead of 2007 by 130 percent in units and 50 percent in dollars, according to The NPD Group, leading industry members to blame the slower sales on the economy. 

Also, Nextar has been gaining PND share selling lower-priced PNDs through non-traditional retailers including supermarkets. The company claimed it captured the No. 3 market share slot from Magellan in November, showing a 181 percent increase in unit sales for November over the same month in 2007, according to NPD. 

The company sells GPS, digital photo frames and MP3 players through such retailers as ACE Hardware, Longs Drugs, Walgreens, Office Max, Kohls, Kmart, Sears, Toys “R” Us, Bon Ton and Bed Bath and Beyond. 

For the full-year 2008, industry members believe PND unit sales will hit 18 million, compared with sales of 10 million to 13 million in 2007.


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