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Glass Now Half Full Vs. Half Empty

Of course, no one in the consumer electronics industry ever agrees completely about everything, but the headline above seems to be the majority opinion from the retail execs, distributors, buying group leaders and others senior editor Alan Wolf quotes about 2013 retail conditions in our TWICE Special Report: The State of the Industry, beginning on p. 16.

Like President Obama’s State of the Union address in January, some of the comments are rife with talk of the housing market, job security, the end of the payroll tax cut and other general economic measures.

But even though the U.S. is now living under mandatory budgetary cuts thanks to a gridlocked Congress, the economy is slowly growing. The housing market is improving, which will benefit not only CE, but major appliances and furniture. The jobs market has stabilized, according to economists and the industry leaders we quote in our Special Report.

Industry specifics depend upon which part of the CE business you are most involved with.

For instance, Scott Anderson, merchandising VP at Best Buy, told us that its stand-alone mobile stores have been very successful, given the growth in smartphones and tablets.

Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide, cheered the fact that housing starts are up and that “the LG Ultra HD display [is] on backorder.”A $17,000 TV is on backorder? Naturally, big-ticket, big-screen TVs like this one won’t be unit sales leaders.

Overall TV sales will still be a struggle this year, but Ultra HD TVs will be sold for a nice profit and will drive customers into stores out of curiosity at the very least, which should benefit brick-and-mortar retailers.’s CE VP Ben Hartman sees growing consumer confidence benefiting “not only the high end, but all segments of the business.”

He should be upbeat, considering how many in the industry look at Amazon’s efficiency and growing power in CE with awe and foreboding. But there are still opportunities for independents in this market as executives from BrandSource and the Nationwide Marketing Group noted, saying that their members have been successful in grabbing share from national chains.

Until Congress gets its act together and begins to help the economy recover at a faster pace, and the industry comes up with more “must-have” products, growth in the CE industry won’t provide across-the-board growth.

But the optimism expressed here about growth in the CE business this year is appropriate, almost like crocuses beginning to bloom even here in the cold Northeast.

Remember VIPs, Twitter

Manufacturers, the deadline for submitting nominations for the TWICE VIP Awards is April 15. As the old saying goes, “You’ve got to be in it to win it.”

And make sure to follow me on Twitter at @SteveSmithTWICE.