HDTV, DVD Top Sampo's Return To U.S. Market

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BALDWIN PARK, CALIF. -- Consumer Electronics retailers have a new source for HDTV monitors and DVD players for the holiday shopping season.

Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Sampo -- best known here for its lines of computer monitors -- has re-entered the U.S. consumer electronics marketplace with assortments of aggressively priced HDTV monitors and DVD players.

The company, one of the largest electronics manufacturers in Taiwan, previously marketed lines of CE products (mainly small black-&-white and color TVs, and portable audio players) under its own brand in the United States between 1970-87. Sampo Electronics Americas president James Chen said the brand was pulled out of the market in 1987 after the United States imposed "unilateral anti-dumping" measures on TVs and other foreign goods that made it difficult for Sampo to maintain a foothold as a marketing company.

Instead, Sampo served South and Central America and continued to supply VCRs and other products to several leading U.S. brands, including Sony and Sharp. It later used the brand in the United States to market computer monitors and PC peripherals.

When anti-dumping restrictions were lifted last year, Sampo saw the opportunity to re-enter the CE marketplace by offering digital TV-compatible monitors and DVD players to a market starved for such highly demanded products.

Separate divisions will handle consumer electronics and computer monitor distribution. Sampo is currently selling two product categories, including two lines of high-performance HDTV monitors and a line of DVD players.

The HDTV monitors -- all of which will display the 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i DTV formats in native scan modes -- include a 34W-inch flat-faced widescreen direct-view model ($3,499 suggested retail) and two 4:3 direct-view models in the 27- and 32-inch screen sizes. The 4:3 models carry retails of $1,299.99 and $1,599.99, respectively.

The monitors will all include NTSC tuners, onboard speaker systems and a full complement of A/V jacks, including RGB via VGA and HD component video for use with digital set-top decoders offered by other manufacturers.

The DVD player line includes three models, all of which have MP3 music playback capability. Models include the entry piece DVE-620 ($169), the step-up DVE-660 with built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder and DTS pass-through, and a karaoke-capable model (DVE-625, $279).

The digital TVs and DVD players have one-year warranties, and Chen said the HDTV monitors will add onsite service to those terms.

Unlike some Asian manufacturers that have yet to deliver similar products, Chen said Sampo's HDTV monitors are in inventory and available now.

Chen said his firm's initial mission is to build a strong brand image as a manufacturer of advanced home entertainment products that offer a high perceived value to consumers.

Sales are handled with a 16-rep sales force, and Chen reports that the Nationwide Buy Group is now carrying the lines for its members. He will also consider two-step distributors to handle independent dealers. Dealers interested in carrying the line can contact Sibel Sunar at the Bohle Co., (310) 785-0515 or sibel@bohle.com.

"Our initial strategy is to serve the regional dealers first, and later move on to larger national accounts," Chen reports. "In the future we will consider expanding to national chains."

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