Best Buy Licensing Sharp Brand For Direct-Sourced TVs

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MAHWAH, N.J. — Best Buy revealed that its strategy of offering product and brand exclusives is still very much in play for the all-important TV category by structuring a deal to license the Sharp name for use on an exclusive line of LED TVs.

Under the deal, Best Buy will direct-source Sharpbadged TVs from a third-party manufacturer, but under the careful supervision and approval of Sharp, executives from the manufacturer told TWICE.

Best Buy’s private-label Sharp TVs join a growing list of brand, model or line exclusives Big Blue has negotiated with prominent manufacturers.

The retailer currently handles several lines of Panasonic step-up LED LCD TVs exclusively, and has implemented vendor managed TV departments in many of its stores from Sony and Samsung. It has long sought to be the national launch platform for new technologies, and has typically enjoyed exclusive launch windows for several weeks or months on revolutionary new technologies like OLED TVs.

The new Sharp opening price-point program includes 32-, 42- and 50-inch FullHD models bearing the Sharp brand and carrying current retails of $200, $330 and $430, respectively.

Jim Sanduski, interim president of Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America (SEMCA) and product marketing senior VP, told TWICE in an email that the TVs are being produced to Sharp’s “exacting quality standards,” and are separate from, though complementary to, the Sharp Aquos open line of small- and midsized premium LED TVs.

Sanduski said his company is involved in the Best Buy program end-to-end, from developing the models and ensuring they meet Sharp’s quality requirements to creating in-store and online marketing materials to support them.

Sanduski emphasized that Sharp remains fully committed to the open Aquos line and its national and key regional customers, including Amazon.com, hhgregg, P.C. Richard & Son, Sears and other dominant dealers.

In a research note, Janney Capital Markets retail analyst David Strasser described the move as “brilliant” on Best Buy’s part but questionable for Sharp.

For the merchant, paying a modest licensing fee to use the Sharp brand to sell “essentially Insignia-featured TVs” could prove “a modest game changer on price leadership,” Strasser observed, but Sanduski stressed that the TVs “are not simply rebranded Insignia products.”

A Best Buy spokesman told TWICE it doesn’t comment on details regarding its sourcing relationships.

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