NEW YORK – Retailers and vendors evaded a series of blocks and tackles last month to stir Super Bowl demand with discounted TVs.
Following a sluggish holiday season, the industry was eager to clear out any remaining inventory in advance of an early 2014 model year. But severe arctic weather across half the nation; a regional contest between two Western teams; spotty inventory; and a still-recovering economy presented challenges before the Big Game.
Tom Hickman, electronics senior VP for the Nationwide Marketing Group, acknowledged that TV sales were soft in December due to weaker than expected demand and allocation issues from some brands. But “historically the Super Bowl is one of, if not the largest, single driver of TV purchases,” he told TWICE in an email, “and I suspect that Super Bowl numbers will be very strong this year, as they always are.”
Hickman was confident of “a strong push from our independent retailer membership base around Super Bowl,” as the big game “tends to drive larger sizes and better technology, which obviously plays into our dealers hands.”
That jibed with sales patterns discerned by The NPD Group. According to the market research firm’s industry analysis executive director Ben Arnold, the week prior to Super Bowl Sunday is the third-largest sales week for TVs 50 inches and larger, and significant spikes were anticipated in the contestants’ home markets of Denver and Seattle. “For the consumer who missed out on the big holiday TV sales, Super Bowl week is a second chance to update their set,” he said.
Proximity to the Seahawks’ home based clearly helped VideoOnly, the Seattle-based specialty chain. President Peter Edwards said sales increased in the Seattle area by 40 percent after the NFC championship game, with the largest gains in 60-inch and above models. What’s more, Ultra HDTV sets now comprise 10 percent of all 65-inch display sales, he relayed to TWICE.
D&H Distributing, the national CE and IT distributor, has also seen a pre-game bump in big-screen sizes. “Larger screens sizes are doing well coming up to Super Bowl weekend,” purchasing VP Rob Eby said just days before the event.
But the real issue, he said, “is around availability, as some vendors came into January much lighter than in past years.” Samsung, he noted, experienced less inventory tightness than other brands.
For hhgregg, last month’s extreme winter weather, rather than shortages or its absence from Broncos and Seahawks markets, put a damper on Super Bowl sales. On a third-quarter earnings call last week, president/CEO Dennis May said the bitter cold and snow forcedstore closures and had a material impact on business in weather-affected locations. “For us, it’s less about what teams are in the Super Bowl and more about the weather,” he told investors.
Not that shoppers weren’t open to a new TV for the Broncos/Seahawks clash. In a survey of 6,417 consumers conducted Jan. 2-13 for the National Retail Federation (NRF), 7.2 percent of respondents, which extrapolates to some 7.7 million adults, said they were planning to buy a new display to watch the game with family and friends.
A separate poll, conducted during warmer climes for FatWallet, a rebate and sales aggregation site, was more optimistic, putting the number of Americans who planned to buy a TV for Super Bowl at one in 10.
According to their numbers, TV purchases have increased every January, from 1 million in 2005 to 7 million in 2013. This year, of the 30 percent of FatWallet respondents who plan to buy a new TV, 32 percent said they would do so for the big game, followed by 25 percent who will wait for Black Friday 2014.
But the findings run contrary to a third study, by DealNews, a rival sales aggregation site. According to its own poll of 1,200 readers conducted two weeks before the game, the majority (50 percent) of those who bought a TV last year said they purchased it in November or December, when some of the biggest discounts were offered.
Consumers had plenty to ponder this Super Bowl season, as vendors and dealers piled on the promotions. Among them, LG Electronics USA ran an instant- rebate program across its TV lines at select retailers nationwide. Key models were featured in the promotion, including the LN5700, LA6200, LA7400 and LA8600 series.
In turn, retailers did their darndest to encourage viewership on brand-new sets. Best Buy, for one, offered free delivery and discounts of up to 25 percent on select models, including a 55-inch Samsung 120Hz LED TV with a $50 gift card, and a Vizio E-series 60-inch 120Hz smart LED TV for $800 each, representing a $200 savings for the latter. The chain also sale-priced all Sharp TVs through Jan. 25, including a 60-inch Aquos Quattron 240Hz smart 3D LED TV that was reduced by $500 to $1,300, and offered a $50 credit to NFLShop.com with the purchase of any Surface Pro 2, the “official tablet” of the NFL.
Regional dealers were also in the game. VideoOnly, the 16-store specialty chain headquartered in the Seahawks’ hometown of Seattle, offered two-year financing and deep discounts on Samsung’s F6400-, F7100- and F8000-series LED TVs in 55-, 60- and 65-inch sizes, including a $1,000 price drop on the 65-inch F7100, which sold for $2,097.
In the New York, host city to Super Bowl XLVIII, J&R Music & Computer World leveraged the local celebration with “Big Deals on Big TVs.”
Looking ahead, D&H urged dealers to keep up the sports blitz post-Super Bowl by bundling large-screen displays, gaming systems and high-margin den accessories like popcorn makers and mini fridges for other seasonal events like the Winter Olympics (Feb. 7-23) and March Madness (beginning March 18). – Additional reporting by Greg Tarr